BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group says that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is no longer in danger of falling.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said in interview with Lebanon’s daily As-Safir newspaper that the danger of the Syrian government’s “fall has ended.” Excerpts of the interview were published Sunday by Lebanon’s official National News Agency. The full interview will appear in the newspaper’s Monday edition.
Hezbollah militants have been fighting alongside Syrian government troops against the rebels trying to oust Assad from power. The Shi’ite group’s fighters were instrumental in helping Assad’s forces dislodge opposition fighters from their strongholds along the Lebanon-Syria border.
However, Hezbollah’s public role in the 3-year-old conflict has inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon. The country’s Sunni Muslims support the Syrian rebels. In the past weeks, the Sunni militants have carried out several deadly attacks on Hezbollah strongholds around Lebanon, claiming they were in revenge for Hezbollah’s help to the Syrian government.
As for Assad’s government in Damascus, Nasrallah said: “The danger of the Syrian regime’s fall has ended.”
Syria’s conflict began with largely peace protests in March 2011. It has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones and Islamic extremists, including foreign fighters and Syrian rebels who have taken up hard-line al-Qaida-style ideologies, have played an increasingly prominent role among fighters, dampening the West’s support.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in the past three years, activists say.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.