BEIRUT - Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for the release of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims held in Syria in a televised speech on Friday.
"The pilgrims should be returned to their families," Nasrallah said, during a ceremony commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
"If your problem is with Hezbollah... or a political party in Lebanon and its position on the events in Syria, leave innocent people aside and solve your problem with us," he said, addressing the kidnappers.
The Shiite militant group Hezbollah is considered Iran's proxy in Lebanon and much of its weapons transit through Syria.
The militant group has steadfastly expressed its support for the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad since the outbreak of the uprising on March 15, 2011.
A previously unknown armed group calling itself the "Syrian Revolutionaries -- Aleppo Province" announced Thursday that it is holding the dozen or so pilgrims who went missing in Syria on May 22.
"The kidnapped Lebanese are being looked after by us and are in good health," the group said in a statement received by Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.
"Negotiations for their release are possible as soon as (Hezbollah leader Hassan) Nasrallah apologises."
Nasrallah had said last week "if this kidnapping is aimed at putting pressure on our political position, it's a waste of time."
On Friday he added, in an address to the kidnappers, "if you have a problem with me, there are many ways to solve it... through war, peace, it is as you wish."