(UkrNews) - Both Etobicoke-Centre Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Parkdale-High Park NDP MP Peggy Nash have denied they made comments that Hezbollah be taken off Canada's terrorist list.
What both MP's say is that all parties in the current Middle East conflict have to be included in any talks that would lead to a comprehensive peace settlement.
"CanWest News today reported that I support taking Hezbollah off Canada's list of banned terrorist organizations," stated Wrzesnewskyj in an Aug. 21, 2006 press release.
"This is emphatically wrong. On the contrary, Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and I stated that it must remain on Canada's list because it has committed war crimes by sending rockets into civilian areas."
"What I did say, however, is that the legislation surrounding our banned list of terrorist organizations must be evaluated to ensure our role as mediator is not compromised. Currently, the legislation forbids Canada from having any discussions with those on the list, and I believe this is not the way to achieve peace."
"Canada must be a partner in any efforts by the international community to bring peace and stability to the region, and we can not play that role if we are shackled by this legislation which forbids us from even speaking to those groups on our list. Discussion, negotiation and diplomacy are paramount to a lasting peace."
In a statement to Ukrainian News Aug 23, 2006, Nash stated: "Certain media outlets have erroneously reported that I called for Hezbollah to be removed from Canada's list of terrorist organizations. I have not made any statements to that effect and have not suggested any changes to Canada's terror list."
"My comments were instead directed to highlighting the need for Canada to work towards a comprehensive peace process for securing lasting peace in the region -- just as UN resolution 1701 that resulted in the current 'cessation of violence' included all parties."
"Canada has a proud history as an advocate for peace in the Middle East. We are highly trusted and respected. Upon my return to Canada I intend to offer specific ways that Canada could help with the rebuilding of Lebanon and to advocate for our country to be a voice for balance and peaceful coexistence in the region."
Both MPs, along with the Bloc Quebecois's Maria Mourani went on a fact-finding mission to Lebanon, arranged by the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.
Conservative MP Dean del Mastro was also invited, but pulled out at the last moment, reportedly on orders from the Prime Minister's Office.
Del Maestro cited security concerns for his pullout.
In an Aug. 21, 2006 Canadian Press story, Wrzesnewskyj, was quoted as saying the visit has shown him how Hezbollah has integrated into Lebanese society and that, in the interest of peace, Canada should reconsider its 2002 decision to place the group on its list of banned terrorist groups.
"Hezbollah has a political wing, they have members of parliament, two [cabinet] ministers," said Wrzesnewskyj.
"You want to encourage the politicians of this military organization, you want to encourage the political wing, so that the centre of gravity shifts to them."
According to the CP story, Wrzesnewskyj compared the situation in Lebanon to the decades of sectarian violence by the Irish Republican Army.
"If there wasn't a possibility for London to negotiate with Sinn Fein [the IRA's political party], we'd still have bombings in Northern Ireland," he said.
In that same story, Nash was quoted as saying many Lebanese regard Hezbollah as resistance fighters.
"It's just not helpful to label them a terrorist organization," said Nash, according to CP.
"If the political parties can figure out a way to work with Hezbollah and try to get along internally, then we should perhaps take a cue from that."
During that visit, Wrzesnewskyj also said Israel has wrought "utter devastation'' on Lebanon in response to two Israeli soldiers being kidnapped by Hezbollah militants, according to a CTV news report.
The damage he saw in the southern towns of Qana, Bint Jbeil and Aytaroun was "far removed" from a measured response, he added. Bits of clothing, toys and thousands of other personal articles litter the streets alongside the remnants of hundreds of collapsed apartment buildings.
Qana was the scene of the deadliest single incident of the war, a July 30, 2006 Israeli missile attack that destroyed a building where civilians had been hiding. The attack killed 28 people.
Aytaroun was where eight Canadians, all members of one extended family, were killed at the beginning of the conflict when their house was hit in an Israeli air strike