Middle East

Gulf states declare Lebanon's Hezbollah terrorist group

Members of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement hold up flags as they march during the funeral of a fighter in Kfour (1 March 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The GCC accused Hezbollah of committing "hostile acts" against member states

The six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council has designated Lebanon's Hezbollah movement a terrorist group.

The GCC's secretary-general accused the Iran-backed Shia group of recruiting youths from Gulf states for attacks.

Hezbollah is a key political and military force in Lebanon, and is involved in the conflict in Syria.

The GCC decision appears to be the latest measure by Saudi Arabia and its allies aimed at countering Hezbollah's power over Lebanon's government.

Two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia halted a $3bn (£2bn) military aid package after the Lebanese government failed to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran by protesters angered by the execution of a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.

Saudi Arabia and two other Sunni-ruled GCC states, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, subsequently warned their citizens not to travel to Lebanon.

'Hostile acts'

The GCC's designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation brings it into line with the United States and the European Union, although the latter has only blacklisted the group's military wing.

In a statement, GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif al-Zayani accused Hezbollah of "hostile acts" against member states, which also include Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hassan Nasrallah says Saudi Arabia has pushed Lebanon into a new phase of a political conflict

They included recruiting young men for "terrorist attacks, smuggling weapons and explosives, stirring up sedition and incitement to chaos and violence", he said.

The decision came a day after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that Saudi Arabia had pushed Lebanon into a new phase of a political conflict by ending its military aid programme and dealing a blow to the country's tourism industry.

He also accused Saudi Arabia of direct responsibility for recent car bomb attacks in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and denounced the "massacres" resulting from a Saudi-led coalition military campaign against the Shia Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.

"Who gives Saudi Arabia the right to punish Lebanon and its army and Lebanese people living in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf just because Hezbollah is speaking out? We urge Riyadh to settle accounts with Hezbollah and not all the Lebanese,'' he said.

Following the GCC decision on Wednesday, the Saudi-backed Lebanese Sunni politician Saad Hariri criticised Hezbollah's actions in Syria and its alleged involvement in Yemen's conflict as "criminal, unlawful and terrorist", but stressed that he wanted to continue domestic dialogue to "avoid sedition" in Lebanon.

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