Saudi issues fresh sanctions over Hizbollah ties

Four companies and three individuals blacklisted include targets of US action last year.

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Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had blacklisted four companies and three Lebanese men for having links to Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizbollah.

“The kingdom will continue its fight against the terrorist activities of the so-called Hizbollah with all available means,” the Saudi interior ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

It named the individuals as: Fadi Hussein Sarhan, Adel Mohammed Sheri and Ali Hussein Zuaitar.

Saudi Arabia also sanctioned Vatech Sarl, Le-Hua Electronic Field, Aero Skyone and Labico Sal Offshore.

The US treasury department last year sanctioned Beirut-based Mr Sarhan and his firm Vatech Sarl, along with Mr Sheri, of Shenzhen, China, and his firm Le-Hua Electronic Field for assisting Hizbollah.

It said they were responsible “for providing material support to enhance the group’s military and terrorist capabilities”.

Mr Sarhan purchased unmanned aerial vehicles, while Mr Sheri facilitated Hizbollah’s efforts to obtain electronics “for transport to Yemen for use in improvised explosive devices” by the country’s Houthi rebels, the treasury department said.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are staunchly opposed to Hizbollah, which is part of Lebanon’s governing coalition and also has a heavily-armed militia.

Saudi Arabia is leading a mainly Arab coalition that is seeking to restore Yemen’s internationally recognised government which was forced to flee after the Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa.

Saudi and Yemeni officials this week accused Hizbollah of assisting the Yemeni rebels.

Hizbollah is also playing a crucial role in neighbouring Syria’s civil war, fighting alongside president Bashar Al Assad’s forces against rebels who are backed Arab Gulf states.

In November, the kingdom added 12 names to a blacklist of individuals and firms allegedly linked to Hizbollah, which is backed by Riyadh’s arch regional adversary Iran.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia hit a new low last month when Saudi authorities executed Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr, along with three other Shiites and 43 members of Al Qaeda, on terrorism charges.

Protesters then assaulted Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, leading the kingdom to cut relations with the Islamic republic.

The kingdom last week suspended aid worth US$4 billion to Lebanese security forces after the Beirut government declined to sign up to statements condemning the attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions.

Announcing the suspension of aid, a Saudi official said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hizbollah on the state”.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia warned its citizens against travel to Lebanon, citing safety concerns.

Qatar and Kuwait followed with similar travel advisories, while the UAE went further, banning its nationals from travel to Lebanon and reduced diplomatic representation there.

* Agencies