By Wasim Saif al-Din
BEIRUT (AA) – Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said that his country would not attack Israel unless it was attacked first.
Aoun made the remarks in an exclusive interview conducted this week with French daily Le Figaro.
“Hezbollah doesn’t play a military role inside Lebanon, and doesn’t carry out provocations along the border with [Israeli-] occupied territories,” he said.
Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia militia and political force that enjoys considerable influence, especially in Shia-majority Southern Lebanon.
Answering questions about Hezbollah’s role inside the country, Aoun said the group’s sizeable weapons arsenal “is linked to the regional situation, especially the conflict in neighboring Syria”.
“Hezbollah's support base constitutes more than one third of the Lebanese people,” Aoun told Le Figaro, adding that “international pressure” on the group was “increasing”.
“Certain parties hope to square political accounts with Hezbollah after failing to do so militarily,” he said, pointing out that Hezbollah had defeated Israel in three separate military conflicts in 1993, 1996 and 2006.
“Unfortunately, foreign public opinion is determined to portray Hezbollah as the enemy,” he added.
Asked whether Southern Lebanon could be used in a theoretical confrontation between Iran and Israel, Aoun merely said: "No."
"If there is no Israeli attack on Lebanon, then not a single gunshot will be fired [at Israel] from Lebanese soil,” the president said.
He added: “But in the event of an attack on Lebanon, we have the right to defend ourselves.”