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Iran, Hezbollah Deny Accusations Of Destabilizing Middle East


Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (R) with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, November 8, 2016

Iran and its ally, the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah, are denying accusations from Saudi Arabia and its allies that they are arming rebel groups and destabilizing the Middle East.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem said the accusations are "full of lies" on November 20, the day after Arab League foreign ministers accused Iran of "aggression" against Arab states and vowed to take the matter to the UN Security Council.

Tensions spiked recently between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shi’ite Iran after Shi'ite Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a thwarted ballistic-missile attack on the capital of Saudi Arabia, which has backed the Yemeni government in the country's three-year civil war.

Adding to the tensions was the surprise resignation on November 4 of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Saudi ally, who accused Iran and Hezbollah of "sowing strife" in his country and the region.

Iran and Hezbollah have accused Saudi Arabia of pressuring Hariri to resign, a move that shatters Lebanon's fragile ruling coalition between Sunnis, Shi'a, and other rival factions.

Ghasemi called for an end to the Saudi-led “pressure” on Lebanon and asserted that the Arab League statement was also the product of Saudi "pressure and propaganda," according to Iranian state media.

Ghasemi also called on Riyadh to stop what he said was its aggression in Yemen, where a Saudi-led bombing coalition has waged a devastating campaign against Iranian-supported Huthi rebels on behalf of the Yemeni government.

The Arab League in its resolution sided with the Saudis in the Yemeni conflict, issuing a "strong condemnation" in particular of the recent Huthi ballistic-missile attack targeting Riyadh, saying it was "blatant aggression against the kingdom and a threat to Arab national security."

The Arab League, like the Saudis, called the missile attack, which was intercepted on November 4 before it hit any targets, an "Iranian violation."

Saudi Arabia and its allies also have accused Hezbollah of arming the Huthi rebels and being involved in the missile attack.

The leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on November 20 denied his group had given the Yemeni rebels the ballistic missile or any other weapons.

"I confirm to them, no ballistic missiles, no advanced weapons, and no guns.... We did not send weapons to Yemen," Nasrallah said in a televised address. "No man from Lebanese Hizballah had any part in the firing of this missile or any missiles fired previously."

Hizballah is an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who has refused to accept Hariri's resignation and accused Saudi Arabia of holding the prime minister against his will. Riyadh and Hariri deny those accusations.

Following French intervention, Hariri flew to France and said that he would return to Beirut in the coming days.

Aoun on November 20 also rejected the Arab League statement accusing Hizballah of terrorism and of supporting "terrorist groups" across the region.

The Lebanese president said his government is not “a partner in terrorist attacks" and said Lebanon has the right to defend itself against Israeli "aggression."

Hezballah's Nasrallah, like Aoun, said he did not consider Hariri's resignation to be final, calling it the result of "brazen intervention" by the Saudis. He said all Lebanese factions are awaiting the premier's arrival back in Lebanon.

Nasrallah also denied charges that his group promotes instability, although he acknowledged that his militia has armed Palestinian resistance groups and has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to support the Damascus government's war against mostly Sunni Syrian rebel factions, some of whom have received Saudi aid.

Nasrallah thanked Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani for what he described as the Iranian's big role in a recent victory over the Islamic State in the eastern Syrian town of Albu Kamal, the last urban center held by the extremist group in Syria.

Soleimani, who is commander of foreign operations for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, led the battle from the front lines from the very beginning, Nasrallah said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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