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Hezbollah chief blasts US envoy as ‘military ruler’

BEIRUT: An image grab from an Iran Press video shows the head of Lebanon’s Shiite movement Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location. _ AFP

BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday blasted the US ambassador to Lebanon as a “military ruler” who was inciting tensions after she accused the party of stealing billions from state coffers. Tensions have soared between the powerful Iran-backed Shiite party and the outspoken envoy, Dorothy Shea, since she accused the party last month of spiriting away billions of dollars of state money at a time of acute economic crisis. In an interview with Saudi-owned news channel Al-Hadath, Shea also said the US was reviewing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government’s links with Hezbollah, considered by the US as a terrorist organization.

“Since the new ambassador arrived in Lebanon …she has dealt with Lebanon as though she is a military ruler, or a high commissary, as though she has authority,” Nasrallah said. “Every day she attacks (Hezbollah)… she insults and offends us,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech, criticizing the government for keeping silent. “She is pushing the Lebanese towards infighting, sedition and civil strife,” he said. Nasrallah said Hezbollah lawmakers in parliament will ask the foreign ministry to summon Shea and reprimand her.

The Lebanese Shiite movement and its allies command a majority in parliament and the cabinet. Shea was already summoned for a meeting with Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti late last month following her interview with Al-Hadath which prompted a south Lebanon judge to issue a non-binding and now-defunct order banning the Lebanese press from reporting her comments. Shea is “interfering in appointments and in government and in the economy,” Nasrallah said. “She is attacking the Lebanese and inciting them towards sedition and strife.”

The dispute comes as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese pound has nosedived against the dollar on the black market, sending prices soaring. Nasrallah on Tuesday blamed Washington for compounding the economic downturn, accusing it of preventing dollars from entering the cash-strapped country and banning investment.

The United States and Israel have long designated Hezbollah a terrorist group and urged allies to follow suit. Hezbollah is the only group to have kept its weapons since the end of Lebanon’s civil war on the grounds of defending the country against Israel.- AFP

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