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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 22:36 GMT
Hezbollah leader urges defiance
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Nasrallah has been a strong critic of PM Fouad Siniora
The leader of Hezbollah has vowed to continue mass protests calling for Lebanon's Western-backed government, led by Fouad Siniora, to resign.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told supporters camped in central Beirut that Lebanon needed a new government, one free from foreign influence.

Speaking via video link, he said Hezbollah was open to negotiations, and would not fight fellow Lebanese.

The group, backed by Iran and Syria, withdrew from government last month.

Thousands of Hezbollah followers have been protesting in central Beirut for a week, with sporadic clashes between government and anti-government supporters.

Accusations

Sheikh Nasrallah told the crowds to prepare for a mass demonstration on Sunday.

And he was sharply critical of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who he accused of hampering Hezbollah's efforts during the 34-day conflict with Israel earlier this year.

"Didn't the prime minister of Lebanon work to cut off the supply lines?" Sheikh Nasrallah asked the crowds.

He also accused unnamed representatives of Mr Siniora's government of colluding with Israel to help defeat Hezbollah, hoping the group would be severely weakened or destroyed.

"Those are the ones responsible for the war, not the resistance," Sheikh Nasrallah said.

The speech was also broadcast live on local TV, rather than recorded in advance, as the Hezbollah leader has done since the summer.

No dialogue

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, in Beirut, says it was one of Hassan Nasrallah's toughest speeches against the government.

Hezbollah withdrew its minister from the government last month - and other pro-Syrian members of the cabinet followed suit.

Our people do not give up, do not get tired. We will not go out of the streets before we achieve our objective to save Lebanon
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah leader
The Hezbollah chief insisted he and his allies wanted a truly independent government that did not follow the agenda of foreign powers and he vowed the demonstrations would continue.

But he ruled out a civil conflict, warning Lebanese Shia that there was no need to fight Sunnis or Christians within Lebanon.

"At the mass protest on Sunday we will show that those who are betting on our surrender are having an illusion.

"Our people do not give up, do not get tired. We will not go out of the streets before we achieve our objective to save Lebanon," he said.

Mr Siniora insisted that the opposition, mainly Christian and Shia parties, would eventually need to talk with his government.

"However long it takes, the Lebanese will have to sit down together," he said.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Thousands hear the verbal attack on the Lebanese government



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