Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah criticized a US plan on Friday to increase military assistance to Arab countries, accusing Washington of seeking to drown the Middle East in wars. Nasrallah was referring to a proposed US plan announced earlier this week to sell advanced weaponry worth at least $20 billion to Persian Gulf nations and provide new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt. "The United States is bringing billions of dollars worth of arms to ignite wars in this region," Nasrallah said in a speech beamed through giant television screens to hundreds of thousands of supporters in eastern Lebanon's city of Baalbek. "The American administration is working on instigating sectarian strife and civil wars in Palestine, Iraq, the Gulf andâ€¦ between the countries of this region."
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The increased aid is believed to be part of US plans to strengthen Middle East allies it deems to be moderate, largely as a counterweight to the growing influence of Iran - one of Hizbullah's main backers, along with Syria.
The Sunni-led governments of the Middle East are also wary of Shi'ite Iran's growing power, and Israel views the country as its principal enemy.
Nasrallah, whose speech was part of a series of events planned by the group to mark the anniversary of last year's war between Hizbullah and Israel, ridiculed US President George W. Bush's announcement Thursday that the US will freeze the assets of people deemed to be undermining Lebanon's democratic government.
The Hizbullah-led opposition in Lebanon has been locked in a fierce power struggle with the US-backed government of Fuad Saniora. The opposition's main demand has been the formation of a national unity Cabinet that would give the opposition veto power. Saniora, backed by the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the US, rejects the opposition's demand.
Syria had significant control over Lebanon before its troops were forced to leave in 2005 because of international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many in Lebanon believe Syria was behind the killing - a charge Syria denies.
Bush's executive order targets anyone found to be helping Syria assert control in Lebanon or otherwise undermine the rule of law.
Nasrallah said the US was "using all its political, media, financial and legal means to terrorize, frighten and encircle the opposition in Lebanon."
"But all this will not lead them anywhere," he concluded.