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BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon's Hezbollah leader rejected late Friday what he called U.S. conditions for mediating a border and maritime dispute with Israel.
Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech that Washington is "using the talks" to discuss, and even make threats over, degrading his group's capabilities, bringing up an Israeli claim that Hezbollah has precision missile factories.
Nasrallah, appearing on a large screen to a crowd of supporters in the southern Beirut Dahiye district, acknowledged his group has the weapons but denied it produces them.
"So far in Lebanon there are no factories for precision missiles," he said.
He threatened for the first time, however, that Hezbollah could consider setting up such factories if Washington continues to use the talks on border demarcation to discuss his group's capabilities.
He said it is Lebanon's right to defend itself. "The Americans have no business with this. It is our right to have weapons to defend our countries and it is our right to manufacture any weapons."
A U.S. official has been shuttling between Israel and Lebanon, technically still at war, to settle the dispute. Washington considers Hezbollah a terrorist group.
Lebanon's foreign ministry said earlier this week that it and Israel are close to establishing a framework for negotiations under United Nations auspices and overseen by Washington on demarcating the borders. The demarcation is essential for Lebanon to access oil and gas resources.
Israel said it's willing to engage in the U.S.-mediated talks.
Israel and Lebanon each claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.
Nasrallah said he is supportive of the Lebanese government's positions in the talks.
"My problem is allowing such discussion (of Hezbollah's capabilities)" he said. "This door must be closed."
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