Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the boss of the Hezbollah militant group of Lebanon, has offered to mediate the crisis in Syria.
Nasrallah, in a rare television appearance, made the proposal during an interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for Russia’s RT cable TV channel.
The interview was recorded weeks ago, before United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofu Annan issued his peace proposal for Syria.
Hezbollah would be more than happy to mediate, Nasrallah said on the broadcast.
Hezbollah, which reportedly receives financial and military support from both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran, has openly supported the Syrian president since the uprising erupted last March. Nonetheless, Nasrallah said he has approached Syrian opposition figures, but they were not willing to negotiate with him.
“We contacted the opposition early on but they refused any dialogue with the regime,” Nasrallah told Assange.
We'll be more than happy to mediate, but we are asking others to make their effort to create a political solution.
He added: We've spoken as friends [with the Syrian government] giving advice about the importance of reforms. We believe Assad is very serious about carrying out radical reforms.”
Nasrallah, leader of a Shia movement, also alleged that foreign countries were interfering in Syria and that al Qaeda (a Sunni Muslim extremist group that considers Shiites heretics) has even dispatched fighters into the country.
While claiming that the West is seeking to replace Assad with a leader friendly to Israel, Nasrallah still praised revolutionary movements in other Arab nations.
Hezbollah is a Shia Muslim group, making it a natural ally of Shia-dominated Iran and Assad, who is an Alawaite, a Shia offshoot.
Assange, himself a highly controversial figure who is fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces a rape charge, conducted the interview via video link somewhere in Britain, where he is under house arrest. It is not clear where Nasrallah was located during the interview.
Assange reportedly shrugged off criticism that a TV network funded by the Kremlin would not be unbiased.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.