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Hezbollah Member on Arms, Rebuilding and Israel

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

It is nowhere near poetic. In fact, it's the kind of language only a diplomat could love. But the words of United Nations Resolution 1701 are crucial to maintaining the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Take point three - it emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Lebanese government over all Lebanese territory. It goes on, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon.

Well, today the Lebanese Cabinet took a step toward the first part. It agreed to deploy the country's army south of the Litani River. That's the area where much of the fighting has been taking place. But the cabinet was not clear on the second part - how it would deal with Hezbollah's arms.

Earlier today I spoke with Nawar Sahili. He's a member of Hezbollah and the Lebanese Parliament. Over a scratchy phone line he told me that the Lebanese government has to have time to discuss the U.N. resolution.

Mr. NAWAR SAHILI (Lebanese Parliament): This is a Lebanese matter, an internal affair that should be discussed inside Lebanon by all the Lebanese, and we are sure to find a solution between all the parties in Lebanon.

BLOCK: This is not just a Lebanese matter, though. There's a U.N. resolution in place which says there can be no weapons or armed personnel in south Lebanon other than those of the government of Lebanon and the U.N. force. So that would exclude Hezbollah.

Mr. SAHILI: We didn't say that we are 100 percent with the 1701. For that, I told you that this is a Lebanese matter. You know, there is a lot of resolution from the Security Council that hasn't been applied until now. You know, there's a lot of resolution against Israel, maybe more than ten resolutions that haven't been applied. I will not tell you that we will not apply this resolution. We will apply it, but it will take a little time to discuss some details inside Lebanon to find a solution. How can we manage between the arms of the resistance and the army?

BLOCK: The two Israeli soldiers who were taken captive by Hezbollah, what moves are being made now toward their release?

Mr. SAHILI: Well, until now, there's nothing serious for them. I think the Italian minister and the German minister tried to speak, but they didn't have anything from Israel government. So until now, there's nothing serious about them.

BLOCK: Are they still alive?

Mr. SAHILI: Well, I don't have any information.

BLOCK: You don't have any information on that.

Mr. SAHILI: Not really.

BLOCK: Can you imagine a scenario of terms that would be acceptable to secure their release?

Mr. SAHILI: Well, this is something for the (unintelligible) person. I'm not - I don't have any responsibility for this case.

BLOCK: But you are in contact with people who would be and I wonder what you take is on what could lead to their release?

Mr. SAHILI: Nobody told me about this problem, but I think in the days coming there will be, sure, people who will talk about them. Maybe European or international people will ask about them and develop trust. I don't know. Let's wait until days coming.

BLOCK: Third party envoys, in other words.

Mr. SAHILI: Yes, it is. Sure. Because we cannot have a direct conversation with Israel.

BLOCK: The money that Hezbollah has pledged will be spent on rebuilding, talking about paying rent for people while their houses are being rebuilt, buying them furniture. Where is that money coming from?

Mr. SAHILI: Well, you know, there's a lot of Lebanese people living abroad, living in Africa and living all over the world. And there's a lot of solidarity now in Lebanon. We will have assured the money to help each other and to help southern of Beirut rebuilt. You know, it's not a big problem to have money and even a lot of other countries will help us. And I think maybe European countries will help us.

BLOCK: You have not mentioned Iran, which is known to be a prime sponsor of Hezbollah.

Mr. SAHILI: We are not ashamed to have money from Iran or from any Islamic or Arab or European country. If they want to help us, why not? It's not something to be ashamed of.

BLOCK: I'm curious to hear your views on one more thing before we let you go. Your thoughts on your neighbor to the south. Does Israel have a right to exist in your mind?

Mr. SAHILI: Well, it exists now. It's a fact now. It's a fact now.

BLOCK: But that doesn't mean you agree with that fact.

Mr. SAHILI: Well, you know, deep inside, you know, Israel is on the Palestine land and they drove out all the Palestinian out of their lands. But now they exist, you know? We must act as an existent case.

BLOCK: So Israel has a right to exist in your mind?

Mr. SAHILI: Like I told you, they exist. Okay?

BLOCK: Mr. Sahili, thank you very much.

Mr. SAHILI: You're most welcome.

BLOCK: That was Nawar Sahili, a member of the Lebanese Parliament and of Hezbollah. He spoke with us from Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
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