Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday called on the abductors of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria to “put the issue of the innocents aside” and solve their problem with Hizbullah, stressing that the Lebanese state must be in charge of security in all areas and calling for a “constituent assembly” that would “put Lebanon on the right track.”
“We have said that the abductees are Lebanese citizens and that therefore the state is responsible for their dignity and for freeing them and we are helping the state as political parties. The state and the top officials are exerting serious efforts to reach a happy ending,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech during a rally organized by Hizbullah to commemorate the 23rd death anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“Some complications occurred, but it is not useful to mention them or comment on them,” Nasrallah added.
“We stress that the state is responsible for addressing this case and we are helping it, but the main party is the state,” he went on to say.
A previously unknown armed group calling itself "Syrian Revolutionaries - Aleppo Countryside" on Thursday claimed that the 11 pilgrims are in its custody and that they are in good health.
A statement carrying the group’s signature and sent to Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera said negotiations to release the abductees “would only be possible after Nasrallah apologizes” for the speech he made on May 23, one day after the pilgrims were abducted in Aleppo shortly after entering Syria from neighboring Turkey.
The 11 abductees were on their way home from pilgrimage in Iran.
"Our problem is not with any particular community but with those who assist in the suppression of the uprising," the statement added.
Al-Jazeera showed images of men said to be among the kidnap victims as well as passports.
Leaders of the kidnappers quoted by Al-Jazeera said five of the men being held had admitted to being "officers" in Hizbullah, some of them "implicated in massacres" in Syria.
Nasrallah had said in his May 23 speech addressed to the kidnappers that his party would not change its position concerning the conflict in Syria, declaring: "If this kidnapping is aimed at putting pressure on our political position, it's a waste of time."
“We condemn your act and the kidnapping of the innocent harms your cause,” he added.
Syrian state media has said the kidnapping took place near the Aleppo town of Aazaz, which sits along the border with Turkey. It said the 11 men were part of a group of 53 pilgrims on board two buses.
The women were allowed to go free and returned to Beirut by plane on May 23. In his speech, Nasrallah thanked Syrian authorities and President Bashar Assad for providing the plane that transported the women to Beirut hours after the abduction of the men. He also condemned attacks against Syrian workers in Lebanon that took place in the wake of the kidnap.
In his speech on Friday, Nasrallah lauded “the patience, high sense of responsibility, self-restraint and honorable and noble stance” of the abductees’ families.
“I call for further calm, self-restraint and patience and to give more time to the state to enable it of reaching the desired result,” he added.
Addressing the abductors, Nasrallah said: “You said yesterday that you don't have any problem with a certain sect, but you have to prove that. The abductees are innocent and they must return (to their country). If you have a problem with me, there are several ways to solve it: through war, peace or love. It's up to you.”
“Put the issue of the innocents aside and let us solve the problem together. You should avoid using the issue of the innocents against us because this is a great injustice,” he added.
“We have a different point of view concerning the painful developments in Syria and this is our right. I ask God to grant these innocents freedom and to grant us all wisdom in dealing with the various issues,” Nasrallah went on to say.
Turning to Lebanon, Nasrallah called for “a constituent assembly elected by the people.”
“Why don't we form a constituent assembly elected by the people -- not on a sectarian or regional basis but on the basis of competency -- in order to discuss all options. Let it discuss the Taef Accord, a new social contract or a non-sectarian system,” he said.
“I call for a serious discussion during national dialogue on how to build a real state and I call on the president (Michel Suleiman) to discuss the possibility of holding a national conference in Lebanon or rather a constituent assembly,” said Nasrallah.
“Everyone agrees that there is no state in Lebanon … Experience has proven that civil peace is the result of an integrated process that comprises culture, law, education and politics and the only side that should be in charge of these elements is the state and its institutions,” he added.
He stressed that the greatest challenge in Lebanon is the challenge of building a state.
“Some parties tried to implement the slogan ‘the security of the Christian community is above all else’ and some tried autonomous security, but no one was able to protect the entire society,” Nasrallah recalled.
“Autonomous security imposed by a certain party over a certain area is counterproductive, as only the state can protect its people,” he stressed.
“We must support the state and its institutions if we want Lebanon to remain unified in this region that is facing the threat of segregation. I'm not talking slogans, we believe in this approach and we are educating our cadres accordingly. Lebanon cannot bear partitioning or federalism and its future can only be secured through a real, capable state ruled by law rather than factional affiliations,” said Nasrallah.
He also called for “a conference that would put Lebanon on the right track.”
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