Hezbollah leader: I will not take 'the American vaccine' against Covid-19

In a four-hour televised interview Nasrallah said little on Lebanon and a lot about Iran’s Qassem Suleimani

epa08906905 A video grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV shows Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during an interview with Al Mayadeen TV  in Beirut, Lebanon, 27 December 2020. Nasrallah spoke about the political situation in the Arab region after several countries started normalizing relations with Israel, about his relationship with the Iranian commander Suleimani, among other things.  EPA/AL-MANAR TV / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Hezbollah's Secretary General said in a televised interview on Sunday he would not take the American Covid-19 shot, but was open to inoculation depending on the advice of experts.

“Of course not,” Hassan Nasrallah said, when asked whether he was planning to take “the American vaccine”.

It was unclear if Nasrallah was referring to the US-made Moderna vaccine or the German-American Pfizer BioNTech shot.

He said he had not yet thought about getting inoculated, “but for these specialised topics I always refer to the experts.”

The four-hour interview with Al Mayadeen, a pro-Iranian television channel based in Beirut, touched mostly on regional topics, and the death of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, one week ahead of the anniversary of his killing by the US. The political crisis in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, was only discussed in one question about government formation.

The process has stalled since August, when caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down in the aftermath of a deadly blast that struck Beirut port.

For the past year the country has suffered from a severe economic downturn and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The port blast has compounded the effects of these two crises, yet political inaction has prevailed in the face of mounting difficulties.

Disagreements about the sectarian make-up of Lebanon’s next government have stalled negotiations, leaving the nation in the hands of a caretaker Cabinet.

“It needs more time,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah said he was on good terms with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and other parties, but  internal disputes between the latter and President Michel Aoun blocked progress.

“There is a positive atmosphere, and there is co-operation between us and him [Saad Hariri] and the various parties,” Nasrallah said.

A Hezbollah operative was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month by an international tribunal, for his role in the 2005 assassination of Mr Hariri’s father Rafik Hariri.

Nasrallah also said during the televised interview that Hezbollah had doubled the number of precision-guided missiles in their arsenal in a year. He said Suleimani’s killing was an American-Israeli-Saudi plot, but did not provide evidence for the claims.

Suleimani headed the Al Quds Force, a shadowy unit in charge of operations outside the country. The leader of Iraq’s Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia was also killed alongside him.

Suleimani’s assassination last January had sent shockwaves across the region. Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei vowed revenge for the killing several times. His call was echoed by Iran’s proxies in the region, including Hezbollah.

The Iranian general was in charge of co-ordinating and directing Tehran’s proxies in the wider region.

His killing created a leadership vacuum that has yet to be filled, despite the appointment of his successor Esmail Ghaani.