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Emile Lahoud speaks with Newsworld's Nahlah Ayed

Hezbollah and its fiery leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah,have the complete backing of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

Ina wide-ranging interview with CBC's Nahlah Ayedon Friday, the Lebanese leader also said hebelieves an immediateceasefire is needed with Israel, one of the few areas in which he agrees with the international community concerning the latest crisis in the Middle East.

The death toll and destruction of infrastructurethat civilians in southern Lebanon have suffered could soon lead to a "point of no return" where violence escalates for years to come, Lahoud said.

"It makes you so mad inside," he said. "If it does to me, what about these people who have got their children, their brothers killed?

"Do you think they're going to forget that?"

Lahoud cited a Lebanese poll claiming that Hezbollah has the support of 86 per cent of the country in its battle withIsrael.He hailed Nasrallah for hiscampaign the past several years to fight for the rights of the southern Lebanese.

"All Lebanese respect him and I respect him," Lahoud said.

The president said the Israeli air strike on Tuesday that killed four UN observers, including Canadian Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, was a case of "history repeating itself," pointing to the 1996 Israeli destruction of a UN base in Qana that killed dozens.

Attack called deliberate

Lahoud said he believed the UN strike was a deliberate attack, a response to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plea two days earlier for Israel to exercise restraint.

The U.S. has dismissed Lahoud, 70, as little more than a puppet of Syria. He was elected to a six-year term as president in 1998; the Lebanese parliamentextended it by three years under pressure from Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not meet with him when she visited the country on a diplomatic mission on Monday.

"Believe me, the Syrians know and everybody knows, I'm not the man of anybody," Lahoud said.

Lahoud told CBC he doesn't fear for his safety, as his outspoken nature and former post as commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army has inured him to living with death threats.