Hezbollah Calls on Lebanon to Reject U.S. Sanctions

BEIRUT (AP) -
hezbollah sanctions
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a video screen as he addresses his supporters in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 14. (Reuters/Aziz Taher)

The leader of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group called on the Lebanese state Friday to stand up for citizens being slapped with sanctions by the United States, saying they are harming people.

Speaking in a broadcast address Friday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the new government, which prime minister Saad Hariri was appointed to form a day earlier, cannot “turn its back” on those individuals.

The U.S., which considers Hezbollah a terror organization, has been imposing sanctions on the group for decades. This month, the U.S. and its Gulf Arab allies issued a new wave of sanctions that targeted the group’s top leadership, including Nasrallah, as well as businessmen and companies that Washington says are funding the group.

Nasrallah scoffed at the sanctions targeting Hezbollah’s leadership, saying, “We have no money to put in banks, nor do we have any bank accounts or transactions.” But he added that the sanctions were harmful to individuals the state should defend, rather than “act more American than the Americans.”

Nasrallah also slammed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Thursday said that the results of the Lebanese parliament election were not what the U.S. would have hoped for, or what “most of the Lebanese people would have hoped, either.”

“What the Lebanese people want is none of your business,” Nasrallah said. The group, along with its political allies, scored significant gains in the May 6 elections.

Nasrallah spoke Friday marking the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon 18 years ago, following a war of attrition waged by the group that eventually led to an Israeli pullout. The day is marked as “Liberation Day” in Lebanon, a national holiday.

The Hezbollah leader said the U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah members would not affect the formation of a new government. Hariri, a western-backed politician, is hoping for a quick formation of a new cabinet, likely to be a re-creation of the outgoing national unity government that incorporates members of the group.

Nasrallah also denied supporting the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara region and said there is no communication between them and his group.

Morocco severed ties with Tehran in protest over the alleged ties; its foreign minister has said his government had proof that Hezbollah has been providing training and financial support to the Polisario Front’s fighters since 2016. Nasrallah said no such proof has been presented.