Hezbollah chief: Netanyahu ‘inciting’ against Lebanon by saying Iran in control

Nasrallah denies his terror group controls newly formed government; accuses PM of turning US, Europe, and Gulf states against Lebanon

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks on June 29, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of inciting Western powers against Lebanon, a day after the premier blasted the country for including the Iran-backed terrorist group in its newly formed government.

“The new Lebanese government is not controlled by Hezbollah,” Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast by Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV channel.

“The new Lebanese health minister is close to Hezbollah, but not a member of the party,” he said.

“The Zionist prime minister is inciting the US, European countries, and the Gulf states against the Lebanese government, claiming it is controlled by Hezbollah,” Nasrallah charged.

Political factions in Lebanon on Thursday ended a nine-month deadlock and agreed on the new government, which saw a strengthening of the Shiite terrorist group.

Hezbollah and its allies now hold two ministries and a ministry of state, including for the first time the Health Ministry, which has one of the country’s largest budgets. The Finance Ministry remains in the hands of a Hezbollah ally, Ali Hassan Khalil.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told a group of 40 UN ambassadors that Iran was in control of the Lebanese government, via its proxy Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefs a delegation of ambassadors to the United Nations, at a helipad at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 3, 2019. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

“Iran has proxies. One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. “It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”

Nasrallah’s deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, on Sunday responded that Israel was not ready for a conflict with Lebanon.

“The situation is complicated and Israel is not interested in war,” Qassem told local TV. “But it if wants to launch a war, we are ready.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (L) and Prime Minister Saad Hariri meet at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of the capital Beirut, on January 31, 2019. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

Rival political groups in Lebanon had been locked in disagreement over the makeup of a new government since May, after the country’s first parliamentary elections in nine years.

The breakthrough came after rival factions worked out a compromise allowing representation of Sunni lawmakers backed by Hezbollah.

The new government will be headed by Saad Hariri, the Sunni politician who headed the outgoing government since 2016. The post always goes to a Sunni politician under the country’s political system.

The government also sees an increase in the number of ministries affiliated with Hezbollah, which is under tightening sanctions from the United States that labels the group a terrorist organization. The group made significant gains in last year’s parliament elections while Hariri’s bloc lost a third of its seats.

Raphael Ahren and AP contributed to this report.

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