Beirut: Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday vowed to stand by his embattled ally President Bashar Al Assad to the end, lashing out at Syria's opposition for cosying up with Washington and Israel.
"From the very beginning, we have made it clear that we stand by the (Syrian) regime, a regime of resistance" against Israel, Nasrallah said in a speech to mark the Shiite commemoration of Ashura.
Nasrallah's speech, broadcast on a giant screen to tens of thousands in the Shiite stronghold just south of Beirut, came after he made a brief public appearance before the frenzied crowd.
The black-clad leader heaped criticism on the Syrian National Council, the main anti-Assad opposition coalition, slamming the council for aiming to "destroy Syria."
"The so-called Syrian National Council, formed in Istanbul, and its leader Burhan Galiun... are trying to present their credentials to the United States and Israel," Nasrallah said.
The Shiite leader's comments came after Galiun was quoted as saying a Syria run by the country's main opposition group would cut military ties to Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.
"There will be no special relationship with Iran," Galioun, a 66-year-old university professor, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Friday.
"Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance," Galioun was quoted as saying. "After the fall of the Syrian regime, (Hezbollah) won't be the same."
First public appearance since 2008
Nasrallah made his first public appearance since 2008 on Tuesday, appearing before a frenzied crowd in his stronghold on the occasion of the Shiite commemoration of Ashura.
Nasrallah spoke to the crowd of thousands for only a few minutes in the southern suburbs of Beirut before being whisked away by his nervous-looking bodyguards.
Considered a prime target for his arch-enemy Israel, Nasrallah last appeared in public in July 2008, on the occasion of the release of five Lebanese prisoners by the Jewish state.
He was to continue speaking on Tuesday but via video link for security reasons.
The head of the Shiite party told his supporters that although he wished to stay with them in person, he was only able to remain on stage only for a few minutes.
Hezbollah, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006 that left much of Lebanon in ruins.