Hezbollah Vows to Continue Amassing 'Arms of Resistance'

Hezbollah responds after U.S. defense secretary said group has more rockets than most governments.

A Hezbollah member of parliament in Lebanon has vowed that the militant Shi'ite group will continue to build its arsenal, media reports said Wednesday.

"Our choice was and remains to secure all the arms of resistance that we can," Hassan Fadlallah was quoted as saying by the Lebanese daily As-Safir.

Fadlallah was hitting back at a statement by U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates on Tuesday accusing Iran and Syria of arming Hezbollah with increasingly sophisticated rockets and missiles, which he said undermined stability in the region.

Gates said on Tuesday that Hezbollah has more missiles than most governments in the world, during a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington.

"Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world," said Gates.

Barak told reporters that Syria was transferring weapons systems to Hezbollah and that Israel is closely watching the developments, though he assured Israel did not plan to provoke a conflict.

"There is a big difference between arms which only serve invasions, occupations and aggressions, such as those of the United States and its ally Israel ... and the arms of a resistance which defends, protects, and liberates," Fadlallah said.

Israel and the U.S. have accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles, which are capable of striking deep into Israel. BothBeirut and Damascus have denied this.

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who has close links with Hezbollah, said Gates' statement aims to cover up the recent souring of U.S.-Israeli relations, the An-Nahar newspaper reported Wednesday.

Relations between the U.S. and Israel reportedly cooled after Israel announced it would build 1,600 new houses in settlements in East Jerusalem. Washington viewed the move as undermining its efforts to re-launch the Middle East peace process.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a 33-day conflict in the summer of 2006.