Hezbollah Hits Back at U.S. Criticism of Its Role in Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuters) -

Hezbollah hit back against U.S. condemnation of its role in Lebanon on Thursday, calling it a “violation of sovereignty,” after the United States expressed concern over the organization’s expanding influence.

After meeting Lebanon’s prime minister on Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador said the United States was worried about the “growing role” in the cabinet of Hezbollah, an armed Shiite group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by Washington.

“The negative American position on Hezbollah, and which American ambassadors are eager to repeat after meeting any official in Lebanon, is rejected and condemned,” Hezbollah’s politicians said in a statement.

They said the U.S. stance “violates national sovereignty and ignores a legitimate right in international law – the right to self defense and to resist every threat and aggression” and was biased towards “the terrorist entity” – a reference to Israel.

Hezbollah controls three of the 30 ministries in Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s new cabinet, the largest number it has ever held. They include the Health Ministry, which has the fourth-largest budget in the state.

Together with groups and individuals that see its arsenal as an asset to Lebanon, Hezbollah won more than 70 of the 128 seats in parliament in an election last year. Hariri, who is backed by the West, lost more than a third of his MPs.