Beliefnet

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - Activists and clerics at an Arab-Muslim conference, including the leaders of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, denounced the United States on Wednesday as a "sponsor of terrorism" for its support of Israel. The hastily organized conference was called to "discuss how to cope with the aftermath" of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, said Nawaf Musawi, an official with the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

Among the 200 delegates at the two-day gathering were two of Israel's leading enemies, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, and Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, head of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad. The United States has characterized both as terrorist groups, although they were not on the U.S. list of groups and individuals whose accounts President Bush ordered frozen after last month's attacks.

Delegates claimed Washington's campaign against terrorism was aimed at "regaining complete American hegemony on the entire world."

"The United States exploited the humanitarian tragedy to which thousands of innocent Americans had been subjected to present itself as a victim and conceal the real picture of the U.S. policy, which is based on oppression, domination and aggression," delegates said in a statement.

A senior Shiite Muslim cleric said the United States would expect other countries to risk lives and foot the bill for a war on terrorism.

"America wants everyone to take part in the mourning, but not to offer their tears. Instead, it wants them to offer their blood, wealth and money," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said in a speech whose text was released Wednesday.

The government of Lebanon, where the conference was held, has condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and said it will fully cooperate in the investigation of them. But top Lebanese officials, including President Emile Lahoud, have made clear that Lebanon holds different views than Washington on terrorism and resistance, such as Hezbollah's attacks on Israeli troops during Israel's 18-year occupation of south Lebanon.

Hezbollah led the guerrilla war against Israeli forces until they withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for suicide bombings in Israel.

Hezbollah said its air defense units fired at Israeli warplanes that violated Lebanese airspace Wednesday. Lebanese security officials confirmed Hezbollah's claim.

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