Nasrallah boasts of Iran military, financial backing
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that his party was solely funded and equipped by Iran and denied allegations the group was involved in the drug trade or money laundering.
"We have been receiving since 1982 all kinds of moral, political and material backing from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Nasrallah boasted in a television address on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.
His statement marked the first time he has openly admitted the source of the military and financial backing for his party.
"In the past we alluded partially to this truth," Nasrallah said. "We used to speak of a moral and political support while keeping silent when questioned about our military backing so as not to embarrass Iran.
"But today ... we have decided to speak out."
Western powers and experts have repeatedly said that Hezbollah, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, draws its arsenal from Iran. The weapons, experts say, are smuggled into Lebanon through the porous border with Syria, whose regime is also a staunch Hezbollah supporter.
The Shiite party, the most powerful military and political force in Lebanon, in 2006 fought a devastating war with Israel.
Nasrallah denied reports that his organisation was linked to the drug trade or money laundering, saying it did not need to engage in such illicit activities.
"Drug trafficking is banned in Islam," he said. "And secondly, Iran's backing spares us the need for even a penny from anywhere in the world."
He added that Iran had never dictated conditions in exchange for its support.
Turning to Syria, Nasrallah denied reports that Hezbollah militants were fighting alongside government troops to put down a revolt that has claimed the lives of at least 6,000 people since mid-March according to opposition activists.
Hezbollah is the only party in Lebanon that refused to surrender its weapons after the country's 1975-1990 civil war on the grounds they are needed to protect the country from Israeli aggression.
The issue has been a source of constant political tension between Lebanon's rival parties.