Hezbollah guerrilla leaders made a rare joint appearance Saturday, trying to refute reports they are divided by differences over religious dogma and strategy in the fight against Israel.
The top fundamentalist clerics made their appearance in Brital, a Hezbollah stronghold in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley, during a memorial for one of the village's notables.Hezbollah Secretary General Sheik Hassan Nasrallah rejected a demand by the United States and Israel that the Iran-backed faction give up its weapons.
"Our strength is in the weapons we have. To give it up means losing," Nasrallah said.
Also attending were Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, spiritual guide of Shiite Muslim fundamentalists, Sheik Sobhi Tufeili, leader of the extremist wing within the organization, and Hussein Musawi, chief of the small Islamic Amal faction.
The various leaders owe allegiance to different factions within the Iranian government.
Tufeili is believed to favor a continued struggle against Israel until the elimination of the Jewish state. However, Nasrallah and other mod-er-ate figures appear willing to compromise after an Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
Fadlallah, whose own relations with Tehran are reportedly strained over the religious leadership of Shiites worldwide, has stayed out of the fray and sought to keep the Lebanese fundamentalists united.