Page last updated at 19:42 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 20:42 UK

Hezbollah confirms Egypt arrest

Hassan Nasrallah, pictured on 13 March 2009
Hassan Nasrallah said Egypt was trying to turn its people against Hezbollah

The leader of Lebanon's Islamist Hezbollah movement has confirmed one of the group's members is among 49 men accused of planning attacks in Egypt.

The Hezbollah member, Sami Shihab, had been trying to get military equipment into Gaza, Hassan Nasrallah said.

But he denied his organisation was seeking to destabilise Egypt and called the allegations "lies".

Egypt announced on Wednesday that it was holding the group on suspicion of planning "hostile operations".

Hezbollah had told the men to collect intelligence from villages along the Egypt-Gaza border, tourist sites and the Suez Canal, prosecutors said.

The group had received equipment from Hezbollah, and had also been tasked with spreading Shia ideology in the predominantly Sunni country, they said.

Gaza row

Speaking on television, Mr Nasrallah said that Sami Shihab was a Hezbollah member who was on "a logistical job to help Palestinians get (military) equipment".

But he said that the other accusations by the Egyptian government were "lies and a fabrication aimed at setting the people of Egypt against Hezbollah".

Hezbollah supports Hamas, the militant group which controls Gaza. It has strongly criticised Egypt for failing to open its border with Gaza to relieve the Israeli-led blockade.

In December, as Israel carried out an offensive in Gaza, Mr Nasrallah called on Egyptians to protest and force their government to open the border.

Some believe the Egyptian move could be a reaction to the Hezbollah leader's statements, reports the BBC's Natalia Antelava from Beirut.

While the authorities in Egypt, and their allies in the US and Israel, view Hassan Nasrallah as a terrorist, across the Arab world he is a very popular figure, his movement admired by many in the region for its defiance of Israel.

And some believe it is Hassan Nasrallah's popularity, rather than specific actions Hezbollah takes, that makes him and his group a real threat for the Egyptian authorities, our correspondent adds.

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