Hezbollah leader Nasrallah regrets war
The leader of the militant group Hezbollah says that if he had it to do all over again, he wouldn't order the capture of Israeli soldiers that ignited the war in Lebanon.
"You ask me, if I had known on July 11 â¦ that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," Sheik Hassan Nasrallahsaid in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station broadcast Sunday.
The war devastated Lebanon, where at least 850militants and civilians died in Israeli bombardments and land attacks, while Hezbollah rockets and fighters killed at least 157 Israeli civilians and soldiers. Estimates of the cost of repairing damage to Lebanese buildings, roads and infrastructure run into the billions of dollars.
Hezbollah fighters crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel on July 12, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two more. Israel responded with attacks that lasted until a UN-organized ceasefire took effect on Aug. 14.
"We did not think, evenone per cent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude," Nasrallah said.
While Nasrallah claimed victory over Israel when the ceasefire took hold, he apologized in the interview for the suffering of the Lebanese people.
Talks on prisoner swap
Nasrallah also said negotiations with Israel on a prisoner swap are in the early stages.
"Contacts recently began for negotiations," he said.
"The Italians seem to be getting close and are trying to get into the subject. The United Nations is interested," Nasrallah said. The speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, isin charge of negotiations, he added.
Israel won't comment on aprisoner exchange, but officials have said that Israel has 13 Hezbollah prisoners, and dozens of bodies of guerrillas.
On Sunday,Vice-Premier Shimon Peres said there were no negotiations underway at the moment, but he suggested there could be talks once theLebanese government is in control of the country's south.
Also on Sunday, U.S. civil rights activist and church leader Jesse Jackson asked Syrian President Bashar Assad to ask Hezbollah to help release the two Israeli soldiers.Syria is one of Hezbollah's main supporters.
Nasrallah, whohas been inhiding since the firstday of thewar, said he believed the Israelis would try and kill him if they knew his whereabouts.
When the ceasefire took effect, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olhmert pledged to "continue pursuing [Hezbollah] everywhere at all times."
Nasrallah also said he did not think fighting would break out soon in Lebanon. "The current Israeli situation, and the available givens tell us that we are not heading to another round," he said.
French soldiers rebuild bridges
French soldiers in Lebanon are helping the Lebanese army rebuild bridges knocked down ordamaged during the fighting. That's a necessary first step to being able to move supplies and people around southern Lebanon.
The 240 soldiers are not part of theUN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, which will reinforce the Lebanese armyas it tries to maintain the ceasefire.
The troops areexpected to work on 15 bridges duringat least six weeks they'll remain inLebanon.
France is also contributing 2,000 soldiers to the 15,000 the UN wants inits peacekeeping force.
With files from the Associated Press