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Hezbollah denounces new US sanctions on political allies

The US imposed sanctions on two former Lebanese ministers allied with Hezbollah [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2020

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The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah has denounced new US sanctions on two former Lebanese ministers it described as its “dear friends”

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Wednesday condemned new US sanctions against two former ministers from allied political parties over alleged corruption and aid to the group.

"We view this unjust decision as a badge of honour for our two dear friends," the Iran-backed movement said in a statement.

Hezbollah has long been targeted by US sanctions and blacklisted as a "terrorist" organisation, but the Shia Islamist group is also a powerful political player with seats in Lebanon's parliament.

Washington on Tuesday imposed sanctions on former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and ex-transport minister Youssef Fenianos.

"Everything that is issued by this administration is condemned and rejected," Hezbollah said of US President Donald Trump's government.

Washington "will not be able to implement its goals in Lebanon", it said.

President Michel Aoun, whose party is allied with Hezbollah in parliament, directed the foreign ministry to contact the US embassy in Beirut and Lebanese embassy in Washington to enquire about the circumstances that led to the sanctions, the presidency said in a statement.

The US Treasury Department said that Khalil, who has also served as health minister, helped direct funds to Hezbollah institutions to evade US sanctions against the group.

Fenianos, it alleged, received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from Hezbollah in return for political favours.

The Treasury Department also said he provided sensitive documents to the group on a special UN tribunal that last month found a member of the movement guilty over the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Read also: Where does STL verdict leave Hezbollah and the search for accountability in Lebanon?

Khalil hails from the Shia Amal party of Nabih Berri, the powerful speaker of parliament, while Fenianos is a member of the Christian Marada movement.

Amal said earlier on Wednesday that the fresh economic restrictions did not just target Khalil but also "Lebanon and its sovereignty... and the organisation to which he belongs".

Sleiman Frangieh, the head of the Marada movement, criticised what he described as a "political" move that would only increase his party's adherence to its political line.

Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and has fought several wars with Israel, as well as intervening in Syria’s conflict on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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