Iran leader hails Hezbollah ‘victory’

TEHRAN, Aug 17, 2006 (AFP) – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed Hezbollah’s "victory" over Israel in a message to the Lebanese Shiite militia’s chief Hassan Nasrallah, state television reported on Thursday.

"Your victory was a triumph for Islam… you imposed your military supremacy on the Zionist regime," Khamenei said after a UN-brokered ceasefire ended the month-long Israeli offensive against Lebanon aimed at crippling Hezbollah.

"What you have granted the Islamic nation is beyond my description, your brave jihad (holy war) proved once again that modern and lethal weapons are ineffective in the face of faith, patience and devotion," he said.

Shiite-majority Iran helped to create and arm Hezbollah in 1982, but denies allegations it is channeling weapons to the movement, saying it only provides "moral support".

"You mocked the myth of Zionist army’s invincibility and exposed its vulnerability," Khamenei said.

During the 34-day conflict, 160 Israelis were killed, mainly soldiers but including 41 civilians in Hezbollah rocket attacks.

Khamenei warned against the enemy (the United States and Israel) seeking to "cut this powerful and efficient arm (Hezbollah) and to create disagreement among (Lebanese) politicians".

"You will succeed in neutralizing their plots and achieve a second victory," Khamenei said to the Shiite militants.

Hezbollah had defied mounting pressure to tackle the question of its disarmament and the Lebanese army is not expected to make any move to rid it of weapons during its deployment.

"Patience, prudence and devotion will be decisive in the jihad you are facing now in the new arena which is as important as your devoted jihad on the battlefield," Khamenei said.