|Hassan Nasrallah and Julian Assange|
This report, datelined Moscow, is by Marc Bennetts, writing for RIA Novosti:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange kicked off his new career as an interviewer of “terrible radicals” on a Kremlin-funded TV channel on Tuesday by hosting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah for a 45-minute discussion.
Nasrallah, speaking by video link-up to Assange, who is under house arrest in London as he fights extradition to Sweden on sex crime charges, told the world’s most famous whistleblower that Hezbollah supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he had “served the Palestinian cause vey well.”
Lebanon-based, Shiite militant group Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Kingdom, but not by Russia.
Nasrallah also revealed, in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on the Moscow-based, English-language Russia Today news channel that Hezbollah had contacted the Syrian opposition to urge them to enter into talks with Assad.
“But they rejected dialogue,” he said.
“Right from the beginning we have had a regime that is willing to undergo reforms and prepared for dialogue,” he added. “On the other side you have an opposition which is not prepared for dialogue and it is not prepared to accept reforms. All it wants is to bring down the regime.”
Nasrallah also said, "Civil war is the only alternative” to dialogue in Syria. "And this is exactly what America and Israel want.”
Russia Today is widely seen as a Kremlin project in image enhancement and Assange earlier predicted he would face media criticism over his decision to work with the channel.
“There’s Julian Assange, enemy combatant, traitor, getting into bed with the Kremlin and interviewing terrible radicals from around the world,” he told Russia Today when asked what reaction he expected to the show.
“But I think it’s a pretty trivial kind of attack on character,” he added in an interview posted on the channel’s website on Monday. “If they actually look at how the show is made: we make it, we have complete editorial control, we believe that all media organizations have an angle, all media organizations have an issue.”
WikiLeaks has said Assange’s guests for the 10-episode show are an "eclectic" selection, including politicians, revolutionaries, artists and intellectuals.
Russia Today has not revealed the identities of Assange’s interviewees.
"RT is rallying a global audience of open-minded people who question what they see in mainstream media and we are proud to premiere Julian Assange's new project,” the channel’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on the channel’s website ahead of the show.
Assange told Russia Today he had chosen to interview people who “normally don’t get a voice.”
He also said he would try to speak to Russian opposition leaders.
“We have invited a number of people from Russia’s political opposition,” he said.
“The Russian election cycle interfered with that,” he went on. “But we’ll see if they will turn out. We had invited nearly all the prominent figures. And we’ve invited people from the Russian government as well – to try and get some balance.”