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Hezbollah backers marching to Beirut

BEIRUT -- Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters from across southern Lebanon began marching toward Beirut yesterday for a rally to showcase the group's insistence that it won't disarm.

The defiant stance comes as UN peacekeepers and Lebanese troops fan out to shore up the cease-fire between the militant group and Israel, and it is a worrying signal for the weak central government.

Today's rally in the bombed-out southern suburbs of Beirut could attract hundreds of thousands, Hezbollah said. But the group kept people guessing whether its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, would attend.

During the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah war, , Israel threatened to kill Nasrallah. An attempt to assassinate him now was considered unlikely since it would risk plunging the region back into conflict.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not say in comments published yesterday whether Nasrallah remained a target.

``There is no reason for me to notify Nasrallah through the media how we will act. We will not give him advance notice. He is holding a victory march because he has lost," Olmert told the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

Nasrallah went into hiding July 12, the start of the war with Israel, and has not been seen publicly since, though he has given interviews.

The monthlong fighting , triggered by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, failed to destroy the guerrilla force. Nasrallah said today's rally would celebrate the ``divine and historic victory" over Israel.

The gathering is intended as a show of strength by Hezbollah

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