- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Jan. 6 (UPI) — The head of the militant Hezbollah said Monday that Israel would not attack Lebanon during any U.S.-led war with Iraq and denied accusations his group received missiles from Iraq.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of the group, said he was "more than 50 percent" sure Israel won't attack Lebanon because "the Israelis are keen (to protect) the U.S. plan in the region and will benefit from the invasion of Iraq."

Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until it was forced to withdraw in May 2000 following a prolonged guerrilla campaign by the militant organization.

Nasrallah, whose comments came during a televised interview Sunday night, warned Israel will pay "a high price" if it attacks Lebanon.

"It won't be a picnic," he said.

He said his group, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, was ready to deal with the worst-case scenario.

Hezbollah "is not a regular army and we don't claim that we can prevent Israel from infiltrating the (Lebanese) border and coast, but we can say in total confidence: any aggression on Lebanon will not be like 1982," he said.

Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1982 and reached Beirut.

The Hezbollah chief also denied Israeli accusations last month that his group had received weapons and missiles from Iraq.

"There is no relation or contacts with the Iraqi regime not presently nor in the past," he said.

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