Al-Manar, Hezbollah's Voice on the Air

Hezbollah broadcasts news and messages on a television station it operates in Lebanon called Al-Manar. Ibrahim Moussaoui, the foreign editor for the station, talks with Noah Adams about the station's role in Hezbollah's continuing battle with Israeli forces.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah has pledged to take the war deeper into Israel. He has suggested hitting towns south of Haifa.

And joining us now to talk about the fighting is Ibrahim Moussaoui, the foreign editor for Hezbollah's Al-Manar television network.

Welcome, Mr. Moussaoui.

Mr. IBRAHIM MOUSSAOUI (Foreign Editor, Al-Manar): Thank you.

ADAMS: Mr. Moussaoui, do you think, is it possible that Hezbollah miscalculated when the Israeli soldiers were captured and brought back across the border? Did Hezbollah anticipate a military reaction?

I know you're not the spokesman for Hezbollah.

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: My analysis - let me say this. I can't speak on behalf of Hezbollah. I don't know what was in their minds.

My understanding is that Hezbollah has envisaged but not anticipated exactly this large scale retaliation by the Israelis. For one simple reason, because it was a military operation against a military position.

Nasrallah came out to say we don't want any destabilization or any escalation. We want only (unintelligible) negotiation and the swap.

ADAMS: Back in 2000, Israel did negotiate to have the bodies of soldiers returned in exchange for prisoners. You're saying that Hezbollah wanted a swap this time?

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: Of course. And this is going to happen after the silence of the artillery, after the war ends. There will be negotiations, indirect ones, and a swap.

ADAMS: In the meantime, hundreds of people have been killed on both sides.

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: Yeah, because the Israelis responded in a very fierce and aggressive way. After they have been told that they have to set free the hostages in their custody - they have been there for more than 27 years - but once the Israeli soldiers were captured, I mean, the whole world jumped (unintelligible) to see what happened.

ADAMS: Who does Hezbollah want to swap for?

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: You have three Lebanese hostages in the Israeli prisons. They have been there for more than 27 years, and the international community hasn't done anything to set them free. The Israelis have refused to include them in the last swap deal.

ADAMS: If, Mr. Moussaoui, Hezbollah envisions a swap to end this matter, why not stop firing the Katyusha rockets and killing civilians in Israel?

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: Why? I mean, you have made a kind of comparison. You are talking about more than 500 people killed in Lebanon. Not barely 15 Israelis. Though every human life is worth saving.

The thing is that Hezbollah has offered, I told you, has offered a swap directly after yesterday he did the operation, but the Israelis refused to do so. They sent their F-16 war jets to bombard the civilians and to destroy the infrastructure in Lebanon. So I'd say this question should be directed to the Israelis.

ADAMS: As you know, the United Nations resolution 1559 calls for Hezbollah to disarm. Why has that not happened?

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: You're talking about the Lebanese government, the sovereignty of the Lebanese government. You're talking about the resistance force that it was legitimized and has the right to resist, to come from, to liberate, to protect, and this is what they are doing.

So again, I mean, the United Nations, they shouldn't meddle, I mean, and compromise the sovereignty of the country. Disarming Hezbollah or not disarming Hezbollah is an internal issue that should be addressed within the Lebanese factions, not through meddling from the Israeli side, from the American side, and even from the United Nations side.

ADAMS: Well, speaking of that, Mr. Moussaoui, taking a larger view of this, people around the world are watching and wondering if the country, the emerging democracy of Lebanon is now being sacrificed to this cause, the fighting in the south.

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: Of course not. Democracy does not only take free elections and direct elections. You have to address, I believe, a wider spectrum. Hezbollah has been part of this democracy. It participated in the elections. They have two ministers in the cabinet, and they continue to promote municipal elections and they have (unintelligible). There is no problem with that.

I believe what compromises and what endangers this is the Israeli continuous threat, Israeli threats to our soil, our water, and the continuous violations of our sea and air space.

ADAMS: Ibrahim Moussaoui, foreign editor of Al-Manar television talking with us from Beirut.

Thank you, sir.

Mr. MOUSSAOUI: Thank you. Bye.

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