"We are witnessing a new language speaking positively of Hizbullah and the fostering of ties with it. We accept this new language and commend it," Kassem said Saturday, one day after Hizbullah officials said they will welcome public talks with Britain.
Britain's Foreign Office announced Thursday that it has contacted Hizbullah's political wing in an attempt to reach out to its legislators. It said its ultimate aim is to encourage the group to abandon violence and play a constructive political role in the deeply divided country.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem expressed surprise over Britain's announcement but stated that according to a number of messages exchanged between the two countries, the diplomatic attempt constituted a marginal sentiment by the British government.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the "change" in UK policy boasted by Hizbullah reflected a desire to continue parliamentary ties with the Lebanese government, of which the organization is a part. He said Britain was still opposed to direct dialogue with the group.
Despite Palmor's assuaging statement, Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said Saturday that "Israel firmly rejects the possibility that Hizbullah is capable of dialogue. A decision by any country, especially a large country such as Britain, to hold such a dialogue is fundamentally unacceptable." He added that Hizbullah was a terror organization that caused a war between Israel and Lebanon.
Many officials in Jerusalem also remained on guard, and insisted that a firmer statement against the organization be made in order to preempt the development of any diplomatic ties.
But Kassem, speaking at a mosque in Beirut's southern neighborhood of Dahiya Saturday, was optimistic and said he believed Britain's change of heart "has derived from their understanding that we represent the people and seek out the truth, and that all efforts to force us to accept a policy that we refuse to accept are impossible."
Regarding Israel, the Hizbullah leader spoke of the northern Shebaa Farms and the Air Force's flights over Lebanon. "No one can convince us to accept the occupation in the Shebaa farms and no one can impose on us a situation in which Israel attacks us daily with its planes in Lebanon and force us to accept this," he said.
Kassem also passed judgment on the new US administration. "We do not rely on the new international changes nor do we rely on Obama's arrival in Bush's place because Obama's declarations in all things relating to the Middle East are no different from the bad things Bush came to," he said of the new US president.
The US did not appear to follow Britain's example in its offer to hold diplomatic talks with Hizbullah. Acting Deputy Department Spokesman Gordon Duguid has told reporters that the US has no intention of fostering ties with the group, but he refused to comment on London's decision.
Roni Sofer and AP contributed to this report