This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," August 1, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Right now thousands more Israeli troops are across the border joined up with forces already fighting there for three days. And Israel's deputy prime minister just announced the military campaign won't end for weeks despite international pressure. Joining us live in New York is Lebanon's acting foreign minister, Tarek Mitri.
Thank you, sir, for joining us.
TAREK MITRI, LEBANON'S ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, tell me, what is your view of Hezbollah?
MITRI: You know, the war is not a war against Hezbollah. It's a war that is destroying Lebanon. Hezbollah is both a political and military organization. And it was born during the period when Israel has occupied Lebanon. It was born in response to the Israeli occupation. It's been radicalized through the years of occupation. And through the many wars Israel has launched against Lebanon. And the present war, which claims to want to weaken Hezbollah has contributed to increase in its popular support and has managed to destroy Lebanon. That is what is at stake now.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of U.N. Resolution 1559 which, you know, we have heard so much about, especially in the last six — or last 20 days, it talks about disarming Hezbollah. Were you in support of that notion that Hezbollah should be disarmed?
MITRI: You know, the government of Lebanon has been engaged for more than a year in the political process. Whereby through national dialogue, through political negotiation, through associating the political wing of Hezbollah in this process trying to find a solution whereby the state, the legitimate government has the sole monopoly of weapons over the territory of Lebanon.
We have been speaking about the extension of the authority of the Lebanese government over national territory. That is what the government is committed to. That is what the government has reaffirmed time and again and we need international community support to be able to achieve that.
However, we were keen on trying to achieve that without bloodshed in our country through political means. Now, we are faced with this situation which makes the task even more complicated which makes the country more vulnerable than ever before. You cannot strengthen a democracy. You cannot strengthen a legitimate government when you ruin the people that this government is supposed to rule.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader?
MITRI: Well, we see him very often on television.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ever met him?
MITRI: I have not met him.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's opinion of him? What do you think about him?
MITRI: He is both a religious and political leader. And he has many admirers in the country, to be sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you admire him?
MITRI: I am a Lebanese official who cares about the safety of the Lebanese citizens. I am more concerned about the safety of my country than about making statements about any particular leader, Lebanese or non- Lebanese.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I asked you that because the thing, eventually, hopefully, this war will end sooner rather than later and at some point the Lebanese people will either sort of accept Nasrallah as the leader and feel Israel wronged them or we will see, you know, a different viewpoint. I'm trying to sort of sort it out when the dust does settle. Will the Lebanese people, will they look towards Nasrallah as their leader or not?
MITRI: Well, Nasrallah is not the leader of the Lebanese people. Nasrallah is a leader in Lebanon. He has a vast following for sure. And there are many people, as I said, that admire him. No matter what will happen in the future, political forces in Lebanon, communities in Lebanon have to work together to reunite the country, to rise up again and rebuild the country. And we hope that this will be done with political measures and then through that political process that we would hope to revive, certainly the political wing of Hezbollah has a role to play.
VAN SUSTEREN: Minister, thank you very much for joining us, sir.
MITRI: Thank you.
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