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WARFARE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

U.S. Denies Role in Attacking Hezbollah

August 14, 2006|By a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday vigorously denied a report in the New Yorker magazine that the Bush administration had worked with Israel to plot military action against Hezbollah as part of a long-term plan to target Iran, a longtime supporter of the Shiite Muslim militant group.

"The piece abounds in fictions," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. He also assailed reporter Seymour M. Hersh's use of unnamed sources, saying it was "hard to imagine that the story would meet any major news organization's standards for sourcing and verification."

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition," Hersh alluded to his early reporting on detainee abuses at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "When I did Abu Ghraib, the same kind of stuff was thrown at me -- that I'm fantasizing," he said.

His editors at the New Yorker, he said, "know who my sources are. In many cases, they've talked to my sources."

The article, in the issue dated Aug. 21, states that the United States was "closely involved" in planning Israel's retaliatory attacks on Hezbollah.

Hersh wrote that according to current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials, whom he did not name, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were convinced that a successful Israeli air force assault on Hezbollah's underground complexes in Lebanon could function as a precursor to a potential preemptive U.S. attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

National security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said in an e-mailed response: "The suggestion that the U.S. and Israel planned and coordinated an attack on Hezbollah -- and did so as a prelude to an attack on Iran -- is just flat wrong."

Bush dismissed the report as "patently untrue," the White House response said.

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