Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah (pictured) has confirmed that a man Egypt is holding on suspicion of planning attacks in that country is a member but denies the Lebanese Shiite movement is seeking to destabilise Egypt's leadership.
REUTERS - Hezbollah said on Friday the Egyptian authorities had arrested a Hezbollah member who had been working to supply military equipment to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, helped by up to 10 others.
But Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied allegations by the Egyptian public prosecutor that his group, which is backed by Iran and Syria, had planned attacks in Egypt, a U.S. ally which made peace with Israel in 1979.
The Egyptian public prosecutor's office said this week it was investigating accusations that Hezbollah had recruited a 49-member cell with the aim of striking inside Egypt, which has had strained ties with Tehran since Iran's 1979 revolution.
Hezbollah, a political group with a powerful guerrilla army, angered Egypt during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year by accusing Cairo of complicity with the Jewish state in its siege of the enclave.
Responding to the Egyptian allegations, Nasrallah said a Hezbollah member, Sami Chehab, had been arrested in November. "The brother Sami is a member in Hezbollah. We do not deny this matter," he said in a televised address.
"What he was doing on the Egyptian border was logistical work to help the Palestinian brothers in moving military equipment and members to help the resistance," Nasrallah said.
"The number of brothers who cooperated with Sami is not more than 10," Nasrallah added, saying that others held by the Egyptian authorities had no link with Chehab.
"If helping the Palestinians is a crime, I acknowledge this crime. It is not the first time brothers from Hezbollah have been arrested," said Nasrallah, who had called on Egyptians to compel their leaders to open the border between Gaza and Egypt.
"The Egyptian regime is the one that should be condemned because it is the one working day and night to destroy the tunnels which are the one artery which supplies Gaza with life," he added.
The Egyptian public prosecutor's office said Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Islamist group founded in Lebanon in 1982 with Iranian backing, had been trying to recruit members to carry out attacks in Egypt.
The group had been trying to monitor Egypt's Suez Canal, its border with the Gaza Strip and tourist resorts in the Sinai peninsula, it said.
Nasrallah said the charges were fabrications designed to turn the Egyptian people against Hezbollah, which won wide respect in the Arab world in 2006 when it stood its ground against the Israeli army in a 34-day war.
"We do not want a conflict with the Egyptian regime," Nasrallah said. "My advice is that this matter is dealt with calmly," he added.
Shi'ite Iran supports both Hezbollah and Hamas, a Sunni Muslim Islamist movement and an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's main opposition group.
Mainly Sunni Egypt and Iran have not had full diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran cut ties after then president Anwar Sadat welcomed the deposed shah to Cairo.
Date created : 2009-04-11