Lebanese President Michel Aoun was repotted as saying that his country would not attack Israel unless it was attacked first.
Aoun made the remarks in an exclusive interview conducted this week with French daily Le Figaro.
“Hezbollah doesn’t play a military role inside Lebanon, and doesn’t carry out provocations along the border with [Israeli occupied territories,” he said.
Answering questions about Hezbollah’s role inside the country, Aoun said the group’s sizeable weapons arsenal “is linked to the regional situation, especially the conflict in neighboring Syria”.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad, which the group publically acknowledged in 2013. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has said the party will only leave Syria if asked by the Syrian government.
Hezbollah’s weapons have become linked to resolving the Syrian crisis and the situation in the region
“Hezbollah’s support base constitutes more than one third of the Lebanese people,” Aoun told Le Figaro, adding that “international pressure” on the group was “increasing”.
“Certain parties hope to square political accounts with Hezbollah after failing to do so militarily,” he said, pointing out that Hezbollah had defeated Israel in three separate military conflicts in 1993, 1996 and 2006.
“Unfortunately, foreign public opinion is determined to portray Hezbollah as the enemy,” Aoun who is closely allied with Hezbollah added.
Aoun also denied that Hezbollah had any veto on strategic decisions on the national level.
“Lebanon is a consensus system and expressing an opinion doesn’t mean using the veto right,” he said. Aoun added that the international pressure on Hezbollah isn’t new and has been increasing, explaining that some sides were attempting to seek political revenge from the party after their military revenge had failed when Hezbollah won against Israel several times.
Asked whether Southern Lebanon could be used in a theoretical confrontation between Iran and Israel, Aoun merely said: “No.”
“If there is no Israeli attack on Lebanon, then not a single gunshot will be fired [at Israel] from Lebanese soil,” the president said.
He added: “But in the event of an attack on Lebanon, we have the right to defend ourselves.”
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