Hezbollah: No free information on soldiers

July 12, 2006 at 9:53 AM
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BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 12 (UPI) -- Iran-backed Hezbollah said it will not give free information about the two Israeli soldiers it kidnapped Wednesday and warned Israel against attacking Lebanon.

Hezbollah's Politburo member Sheikh Hassan Ezzedine said in a telephone interview with United Press International "we will not offer free information about the conditions of the soldiers at all. They are in a safe place and the Zionist enemy will not be able to reach them."

Ezzedine defended Hezbollah's action saying "it is a legitimate, moral and national right to seek to free our prisoners in Israeli jails."

His comment suggested that the Shiite group wants to swap the soldiers for dozens of Arab and Palestinian prisoners and not only four Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kantar who has been held for 27 years.

Ezzedine warned Israel against attacking Lebanon and refuted Israeli threats to invade Lebanon by saying "these threats are not new... The Zionist enemy always threatens Lebanon's economy."

"The Israeli enemy will bear the responsibility of any escalation and it is perfectly aware of the high cost it will pay," Ezzedine said.

He noted that Israel can strike deep into Lebanon and launch a large-scale attack "but it will not be able to achieve political and military goals and the resistance is in full readiness to defend Lebanon and its people."

Commenting on U.S., U.N. and European calls for freeing the Israeli soldiers, Ezzedine said "the international community, especially the U.S. administration which is always biased towards the Zionist enemy and tries to fulfill its wishes, should be pressuring Israel to release thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails."

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected any possible negotiations with Hezbollah to arrange a swap deal.

"All the way I have announced that we will not surrender to terrorist organizations or to blackmail and we will not conduct negotiations with the terrorist groups," Olmert said.

He also lashed out at Syria, saying "the Syrian government proved to be a terrorist government by nature and encourages terrorist groups inside and outside its territory to carry out bloody operations."

"Of course, there will be proper preparations against the Syrian government," Olmert added in a veiled threat against Damascus.

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