Hezbollah rejects call to disarm by UN chief

Hezbollah rejects call to disarm by UN chief

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Saturday that his Shiite group would not disarm, rejecting a call by visiting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, DPA reported.

"I tell Ban and all the world that the armed resistance will stay and will increase its power," Nasrallah told thousands of followers in a television address.

Ban, who arrived in Beirut for a three-day visit on Friday, told a news conference he was "deeply concerned" about the weapons arsenal of Hezbollah, which is believed to be more powerful than the Lebanese army. "All arms outside state authority are not acceptable," he said.

Ban's three-day visit to the country has caused tensions in Lebanon after a Hezbollah member said the UN chief was not welcome.

In a report presented in November to the UN Security Council, Ban said all militias, including Hezbollah, should be disarmed, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite group.

Hezbollah says it needs its weapons to defend Lebanon against Israel.

"It is important for Lebanon to abide by all United Nations resolutions ... It is time to put an end to violence and to grant peoples the chance they need for (a) better future," Ban said.

Nasrallah's televised address came as the UN chief visited UN peacekeepers in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. The Uniited Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was expanded to 12,000 troops after the 2006 war.

UNIFIL was last year the target of three attacks that wounded Italian and French peacekeepers.

Another point of tension between Hezbollah and the United Nations is a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a huge blast on Beirut's seafront, and other political killings.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has indicted four Hezbollah members for alleged involvement in the assassination. The group denies this and has refused to hand over the suspects.

Ban will on Sunday deliver a speech at a UN-sponsored conference about the Arab Spring uprisings.

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