Arab League declares Hizbollah a ‘terrorist’ group

Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision, excluding Lebanon and Iraq which expressed “reservations”, the bloc said in a statement read out by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.

 A general view for the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers, Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, 10 March 2016. The Arab foreign ministers assembled for an urgent meeting to discuss the current situation in the arab world and postponed the election of the new Arab League secretary general as the seat will be empty by June 2016. Mohamed Hossam/EPA
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CAIRO // Arab League foreign ministers yesterday declared Hizbollah a “terrorist” group, after the GCC adopted the same stance.

Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision, excluding Lebanon and Iraq which expressed “reservations”, the bloc said in a statement read out by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.

“The resolution of the League’s council [of foreign ministers] includes the designation of Hizbollah as a terrorist group,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi delegation briefly withdrew from discussions to protest against Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari’s refusal to label Hizbollah as terrorist.

Yesterday’s announcement came after the GCC last week also declared the Lebanese Shiite militia and political movement a “terrorist” group.

The GCC, which includes the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar, accused Hizbollah – which has llegislators in Lebanon’s parliament and is backed by Iran – of attempting to recruit Gulf nationals for terrorist attacks and said its involvement in regional conflicts threatens the security of Arab nations.

In January, Bahrain said it had dismantled a “terror” cell allegedly linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese movement.

That same month, a lower court in Kuwait sentenced 22 people, all but one of them Kuwaiti Shiites, who were charged with spying for Iran and plotting Hizbollah-linked attacks in the country.

The GCC’s decision followed recent moves by the bloc to place pressure on the Lebanese government to distance itself from Hizbollah.

Late last month, Saudi Arabia cancelled US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) in aid to Lebanon’s security forces, saying that Hizbollah had “hijacked” the country.

This was followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait telling their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately while the UAE banned on its citizens travelling to the country. Saudi Arabia also blacklisted four companies and three individuals for ties to Hizbollah.

Riyadh has also asked the Lebanese government to apologise over the actions of its Hizbollah-allied foreign minister, who refused to endorse official condemnations of attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and Saudi consulate in Mashhad following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric on terrorism charges.

The United States, Canada and Australia have also listed Hizbollah as a “terrorist” group, while the European Union has blacklisted its military wing.

The Arab League’s ministerial quartet, comprising representatives of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, also demanded yesterday that Iran stop its support for terrorist and subversive acts in Arab states.

After a meeting chaired by Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the quartet condemned Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Arab states and hostile statements against them by Iranian officials, in violation of international law and the United Nations charter.

The quartet, which was formed earlier this month to counter Iran’s interference in the Arab region, said it had examined the developments of the ongoing crisis with Iran, as well as a report on statements by Iranian officials attacking Arab states.

* Agence France-Presse, Wam