Page last updated at 22:10 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 23:10 UK

Hassan Nasrallah - 'Israeli spies' must die

Sheikh Nasrallah on TV
Nasrallah called on any remaining Israeli spies to give themselves up

The leader of the Lebanese Shia movement, Hezbollah, has said Lebanon must execute anyone found guilty of spying for Israel.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah added that suspected spies still at large had been "exposed", and would soon be caught.

The Lebanese authorities are holding more than 20 people accused of spying on Hezbollah positions and officials.

Sheikh Nasrallah's comments came while the US Vice-President Joe Biden was still in Lebanon, meeting its leaders.

Handful of sand

The Hezbollah leader was speaking in a pre-recorded video relayed to a large flag-waving crowd in the southern city of Nabatiyeh, on the ninth anniversary of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon

He called on any spies still at large to give themselves up.

"Spies and agents, you must know that you are worthless to your Zionist masters," he said, "and that you are worth less than a handful of sand to Israel."

He added that the alleged spies were not just collecting intelligence, but also carrying out operations.

Lebanese security officials say the arrest of those accused of espionage has severely undermined Israel's spy networks in the country.

They say those detained had been monitoring senior Hezbollah officials, and that many had helped to identify bombing targets during the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. One is accused of plotting the assassination of a Hezbollah commander in 2004.

Those in custody include a policeman, a former brigadier general and a housewife. Lebanon says sophisticated spying equipment was found in some of their homes. If convicted, they all face the death penalty.

Blatant interference

Israel has made no comment on the accusations.

But earlier this week, the Israeli security agency Shin Bet warned Israelis to beware attempts by its Arab enemies to harm or recruit them as spies via social networking websites such as Facebook.

In a separate development, Hezbollah accused the visiting US Vice-President, Joe Biden, of "blatant interference in Lebanese affairs," two weeks before the country's general elections.

Mr Biden said he had not come to back any particular party. But he made it clear that Washington's policy on assistance to Lebanon would hinge on what kind of government the elections produced.

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