Hizbullah chief warns against Israeli-U.S. spies
| Friday, 03.05.2010, 11:26 PM

BEIRUT — Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned the Lebanese government on Monday against sharing telecommunications information with the United States, saying any such move would be tantamount to collaborating with Israel.


The Shi'a leader also called for any Lebanese citizens convicted of spying for Israel in a series of trials in recent months to face the death sentence.

"The U.S. embassy is sending letters to ministries and security forces asking for information," Nasrallah said via video link to his supporters massed in Hizbullah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs.

"This is dangerous as it is a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, but its real danger lies elsewhere," he said.

"Because of the strategic relationship and unity between the United States and Israel ... any information gathered through such requests, like spy rings, reaches Israelis.

"In other words, it is giving Israel information by proxy on a silver platter, and we hope there are no Lebanese citizens collaborating with the U.S. embassy in the matter," he said.

A U.S. request for confidential data on Lebanon's telecommunications sector prompted an emergency meeting of Lebanese MPs and top officials on Monday, after local media accused Washington of spying.

The request by the U.S. embassy in Lebanon was submitted in April last year but was turned down by then-energy minister Gebran Bassil, reports said.

Bassil on Monday confirmed that he had turned down the embassy's request for "very detailed information on the mobile phone service providers in Lebanon — the stations, the antennas, technical information."

U.S. embassy officials would not comment.

Nasrallah also demanded the death penalty for convicted spies as Lebanese authorities press on with an expanding crackdown on suspected Israeli spy rings launched last year.

"I have said before, and I repeat today, yes to the death sentence for these spies."

A Lebanese arrested last month on suspicion of spying for Israel on Monday confessed to his involvement in a 2004 bomb attack that killed Hizbullah official Ghaleb Awali, a security source said.

"We have almost solid proof that he was behind the bombing, which he does not deny, although he has backtracked a few times on his confession," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Lebanon and Israel remain technically at a state of war, and convicted spies face life in prison with hard labor or the death penalty if found guilty of contributing to Lebanese loss of life.

Retired security official Mahmud Qassem Rafeh, 63, was sentenced to death last month for "collaboration and espionage on behalf of the Israeli enemy," according to the verdict handed down by a military tribunal.

He was also convicted of involvement in the 2006 car bomb murder in the southern coastal town of Sidon of brothers Mahmoud and Nidal Mazjoub, members of the Islamic Jihad group.

A military prosecutor last month also called for the death penalty for two other men accused of spying for Israel, including a fugitive believed to be living in Israel, a judicial source told said.

The two are suspected of having given Israel information on Hizbullah, the source said.

Israel has made no public comment on the arrests.

Israel waged a bloody 34-day war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006 after Hizbullah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid that aimed to free Lebanese soldiers from Israeli prisons. The bodies of the soldiers were returned in a prisoner swap.

The war claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, most of them civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Hizbullah, originally a resistance group formed to counter an Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, had forced the Israeli military out of Lebanon in 2000. Israel, however, continues to occupy the Lebanese Shabaa Farms.

Israeli flights over Lebanon occur on an almost daily basis and are in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1710, which in August 2006 ended the war.

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