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Blinken calls Hezbollah 'threat,' U.S. blacklists 7 Lebanese nationals

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media before a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at the State Department in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS reuters_tickers
This content was published on May 11, 2021 - 17:20

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Tuesday called on governments worldwide to take action against Lebanon's Iranian-backed militant group Hezbozllah, as the Treasury Department sanctioned seven Lebanese nationals it said were connected to the group and its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH).

"The threat that Hizballah (Hezbollah) poses to the United States, our allies, and interests in the Middle East and globally, calls for countries around the world to take steps to restrict its activities and disrupt its facilitation networks," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the action against the group, designated a terrorist organization by Washington.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that it had blacklisted Ibrahim Ali Daher, who it described as chief of Hezbollah's Central Finance Unit, as a specially designated global terrorist, accusing him of acting on behalf of Hezbollah.

The United States also slapped sanctions on six others linked to AQAH, including a man it said was the financial director, Ahmad Mohamad Yazbeck, as well as Abbas Hassan Gharib, Wahid Mahmud Subayti, Mostafa Habib Harb, Ezzat Youssef Akar, and Hasan Chehadeh Othman.

The Treasury accused the six men of using the cover of personal accounts at Lebanese banks to evade sanctions targeting AQAH and transfer $500 million on behalf of the U.S.-blacklisted firm.

Officials in Hezbollah had no immediate comment.

Tuesday's move freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those who engage in certain transactions with the designated individuals also risk being hit with secondary sanctions.

"Hizballah (Hezbollah) continues to abuse the Lebanese financial sector and drain Lebanon’s financial resources at an already dire time," Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in the statement.

In Lebanon, a deadlock in Cabinet talks have worsened the country's economic collapse. Just 18 months have passed since mass protests against the Middle Eastern country's political class brought down one government, and nearly eight more months since a huge explosion destroyed the port of Beirut and toppled the administration that succeeded it.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Lisa Lambert; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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