Lebanon blasts US sanctions on Hezbollah lawmakers as assault on country
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Lebanon blasts US sanctions on Hezbollah lawmakers as assault on country

Parliament speaker denounces move a day after Washington charged that group’s political activities are meant to advance military aims

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut, Lebanon,May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut, Lebanon,May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Lebanon’s parliament speaker said Wednesday that the United States’ move to place two of Hezbollah’s parliamentarians on its sanctions blacklist was an assault on his country.

“It is an assault on the parliament and as a result an assault on all of Lebanon,” said Nabih Berri, the head of Hezbollah’s ally, the Amal party, according to the Reuters news agency.

The US Treasury on Tuesday added Lebanese lawmakers Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Raad to a terror-related blacklist, saying that Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite movement they belong to, uses its parliamentary power to advance its terrorist activities.

Also placed on the blacklist was Wafiq Safa, a top official of the Iran-allied terror group.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, is greeted by Lebanese Hezbollah lawmaker Amin Sherri at Rafik Hariri airport in Beirut, Lebanon, February 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“Hezbollah uses its operatives in Lebanon’s parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group’s financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran’s malign activities,” said Sigal Mandelker, the US under secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

The move — the first by Washington to target Hezbollah elected politicians — came as the US bolsters pressure on Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.

Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist group by the United States, European nations and Israel, among others.

Hezbollah fighters have backed government forces in neighboring Syria in the civil war that broke out there in 2011 and last fought a war with Israel in 2006.

On Tuesday lawmaker Ali Fayyad said the move “is a humiliation for the Lebanese people” and called on parliament and the government to issue a formal condemnation.

Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil meanwhile tweeted that the US sanctions “concern all of the Lebanese even if they are directed at Hezbollah” and are “unjustified.”

Hezbollah supporters shout slogans and wave Lebanese, Hezbollah and Iranian flags, during a rally to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, in southern Beirut, Lebanon, February 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

After the US Treasury’s announcement, Hezbollah television Al-Manar said the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, was due to appear Friday on TV.

Nasrallah is due to address a series of Lebanese and regional issues and is expected to also discuss the latest sanctions.

Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war, and is now a major political player in the country. It won 13 seats out of 128 in the May 6, 2018 general election, and holds three cabinet posts.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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