Hezbollah chief says danger to Syria regime over

Hezbollah chief says danger to Syria regime over

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Hezbollah chief says danger to Syria regime over

In this Aug. 2, 2013, file photo, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks during a rally to mark Jerusalem day, or Al-Quds day, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.

Syria's regime is no longer in danger of being toppled and the risk of the country being divided has passed, the head of Lebanon's Hezbollah said in remarks published April 7.

Hassan Nasrallah's comments to the al-Safir daily come as his Shiite movement is increasingly involved in the conflict in neighbouring Syria, where they are fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"In my opinion, the phase of bringing down the regime or bringing down the state is over," he told the newspaper in an interview.

"I think we have passed the danger of division" of the country, he added. "They cannot overthrow the regime, but they can wage a war of attrition," the Hezbollah chief said.

Nasrallah also said he believed supporters of the uprising were tempering their expectations for an opposition defeat of the regime. "The regional and international situation has changed," he said.

"In my view, the pressure on the regime in the coming phase will be less than in the past three years, in terms of political pressure, media pressure and pressure on the ground," he added.

Latakia assault 'exaggerated'

He dismissed recent rebel operations in Latakia province, where the opposition has gained ground and said talk of a major offensive by rebels was simply "exaggeration."

The Latakia front "is a limited operation... but it created a big fuss in the media," he said. "For all the talk about the big battle to come, we've seen nothing of it so far," he added.

Hezbollah's involvement in Syria's conflict has raised tension in Lebanon, where many Sunnis support the uprising and others fear the group's role will bring the fighting into their country.

The country's opposition March 14 movement has been particularly vocal in calling for the group to withdraw its forces from the fight. But Nasrallah denied that public sentiment was opposed to the group fighting in Syria.

"There is a large public feeling that supports the step of Hezbollah's intervention in Syria," he said.

"Many Lebanese, even inside March 14, believe and accept that the intervention in Syria protects Lebanon from the terrorist groups whose behaviour and actions we see on a daily basis," he added.

"So we do not feel alienated," he said, adding that many political and religious forces in the country had expressed their support "behind closed doors, which increases our confidence in this position."