Lebanese foreign minister denounces Arab League's designation of Hezbollah as terror group

March 13, 2016 10:33

FM calls decision "unacceptable," after the Iran-backed group is blacklisted by the 22-nation forum.

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Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags

Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah and Lebanese flags in south Lebanon. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Sunday that the Arab League's motion last Friday to list Hezbollah as a terror group was “unacceptable.”

In an interview to the Kuwaiti publication al-Rai, Bassil said that the Iran-backed organization has a "broad representation of Lebanese."

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"It enjoys mass parliamentary and ministerial blocs,” he added, noting the group's significant influence in internal Lebanese affairs.

Lebanon has a deeply divided political landscape, with power-sharing between the country's Sunni, Shi'ite and Christian communities often fraught with difficulties and deadlock. Lebanon has not had a president in over two years because of a political standoff between political blocs consisting of Hezbollah and its allies, and parties aligned with Saudi Arabia.

The move to list Hezbollah as a terror group reflects the deepening broader conflict between the Iran-led Shi'ite axis on one side, and Gulf-backed Sunni states and groups in the region on the other.

Reacting to the earlier Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) move to list the group as a terror organization, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday, "Saudi Arabia is angry with Hezbollah since it is daring to say what only a few others dare to say against its royal family."

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in January, responding to the storming of its embassy in Tehran, after Riyadh had executed a Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

Already backing rebel groups fighting Hezbollah in Syria, Saudi Arabia in February halted a $4 billion program for military supplies to Lebanon in a move designed to indirectly put pressure on Hezbollah at home.

After that announcement, Saudi Arabia urged its nationals to leave Lebanon and avoid traveling there, with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait also taking similar steps.

Hezbollah is already classified as a terror organization in the US, Canada, Israel, France and the Netherlands, with the rest of the EU, Australia and New Zealand only outlawing the "military wing" of the organization.

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