Hezbollah Vows to Keep Its Weapons

BINT JBAIL, Lebanon - Under international pressure to disarm, Hezbollah's leader vowed yesterday to fight anyone who tries to take away the group's weapons, which include more than 12,000 rockets capable of hitting northern Israel.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah stressed that the guerrillas' weapons were necessary for Lebanon's defense, and that talk of their removal was "madness."

"We are among the biggest proponents of peace, stability and national unity. We don't seek to attack anyone and we will not allow anyone to attack Lebanon. But, listen to me, if anyone thinks - anyone - of disarming the resistance, we would fight them until martyrdom."

Nasrallah's speech came on Liberation and Resistance Day, a Lebanese holiday that commemorates the fifth anniversary of the end of the Israeli occupation.

Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Muslim militant group backed by Iran and Syria, has been labeled a terrorist group by the United States, which wants the group to abandon its weapons.

September's United Nations resolution that forced Syrian forces to leave Lebanon also demands militias in Lebanon give up their weapons.

Hezbollah has refused to disarm, and Lebanese authorities have resisted pressuring the group, calling it a resistance movement, not a militia. The Lebanese army has not deployed in southern Lebanon after Israel's withdrawal in 2000, allowing Hezbollah to retain control.