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Hezbollah leader: Militants 'won't surrender arms'

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- In a speech to thousands of cheering supporters, the leader of Hezbollah vowed Friday the militants never will give up their arms, as called for in the U.N. resolution that ended its 34-day war with Israel last month.

"No army in the world will force us to drop our weapons, force us to surrender our arms, as long as people believe in this resistance," said Hassan Nasrallah, who claimed Hezbollah victorious in the fighting.

But he added, "We do not wish to keep our weapons forever," because they should not be part of domestic life. He assured the crowd, "Those who say the resistance is weak, I want to say it's stronger than ever."

"We were prepared for a long war. What we offered during that war is only a small part of our capability," he said.

"Today the resistance owns more than 25,000 missiles. ... The resistance has been able to regroup and rearm and regain its capability."

Nasrallah, who called for national unity among all Lebanese, spoke in one of the southern Beirut suburbs that was heavily bombed by the Israeli military.

They "said this courtyard would be bombed and this building would be destroyed in order to frighten and intimidate people, and here you are today," Nasrallah said. "... You are the most brave and most courageous of any of them put together."

Hezbollah, he said, should celebrate the "divine and strategic victory."

"Peace be with you and with your martyrs and with your families. I feel your pain, and I salute your tears and your blood and your destroyed homes, and I salute your will and your determination," he said.

Israel says Nasrallah is terrorist

Israel has made no secret of its desire to kill Nasrallah, calling him a leading terrorist in the region.

Acknowledging his vulnerability, Nasrallah said: "My presence here is not without any danger. However, my heart and my soul would not allow me to address you from a distance and through some screen."

He walked through the crowd greeting people and shaking hands before starting his speech. Many were waving yellow Hezbollah flags.

Israel launched a major military campaign July 12 to dislodge Hezbollah from southern Lebanon after militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and after months of Hezbollah rocket attacks on northern Israel.

The fighting generally stopped after the August 14 passage of Resolution 1701 by the U.N. Security Council, which also called for the re-establishment of Lebanese government control over the area.

Nasrallah, speaking on the Muslim Sabbath, urged all groups in Lebanon, including Christians, to unite against any interlopers, and warned the U.N. peacekeeping forces called in to monitor the fragile cease-fire to stick to their mission. The soldiers are supporting the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, and Lebanese soldiers.

"Your job is not to spy on Hezbollah or dismantle Hezbollah," he said.

Nasrallah vowed that Lebanon will never give up its claim to the Shebaa Farms, a disputed area near the Israeli-Lebanese border.

"We will not give up one inch of Middle East territory," he said.

Although Nasrallah declared victory in the war, he previously said that if Hezbollah could have predicted Israel's response, it would not have abducted the Israeli soldiers and sparked the fighting. He made that comment in a televised interview with Lebanon's New TV last month.

In that interview, Nasrallah said if he had thought there had been "a 1 percent possibility" that Israel's military response would have been as extensive as it turned out to be, "I would say no, I would not have entered this for many reasons -- military, social, political, economic."

He added, "If there was a 1 percent possibility, we would not have done that. We would not have done any capturing."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called those remarks a "contrition speech" by Nasrallah and said, "It's absolutely clear that Hezbollah has been whipped."

But Nasrallah was not contrite as he spoke to the crowd Friday.

He called the conflict "an American war."

"It was an American war by providing the arms and the planning and by giving deadline after deadline to the enemy. What stopped the war was the Zionists' failure to defeat us," he said. "They thought the war would lead Hezbollah to give in. ...

"Lebanon has been victorious, Palestine has been victorious, Arab nations have been victorious."

Nasrallah called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez "a great hero" for speaking against President Bush at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. (Watch Hugo Chavez cross himself as he tells world leaders he can smell the devil -- 1:06)

Chavez called Bush the devil and said that, "as the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.

Nasrallah defended Hezbollah supporters Iran and Syria, which have been criticized for supplying arms and money to the militants, and said the Hezbollah stances have nothing to do with the international outcry over Iran's nuclear-enrichment program.


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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters at the "victory rally" in Beirut on Friday.

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