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US announces new sanctions on companies, individuals linked to Hezbollah

A Hezbolla flag flutters in Lebanon on 2 September 2019 [MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images]
A Hezbolla flag flutters in Lebanon on 2 September 2019 [MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images]

The US has announced a new set of sanctions on two companies and one individual over links to Hezbollah, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

The US has long designated the Iranian-backed Shia group a terrorist organisation and has frequently targeted officials with links to it with sanctions.

The new sanctions target the companies Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction “for being owned, controlled, or directed by Hezbollah”, AP quoted the US department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as saying.

The US agency also sanctioned Sultan Khalifah Asaad, who is said to be a senior Hezbollah Executive Council official, over his alleged association with both companies.

“The United States remains committed to targeting Hezbollah and its supporters as they corruptly abuse Lebanese resources to enrich their leaders while the Lebanese people suffer from inadequate services,” Steven Mnuchin, treasury secretary, explained in a statement.

The move comes fewer than ten days after the US officially sanctioned two former Lebanese ministers – former Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil – over alleged corruption and ties to Hezbollah.

READ: 4 ex-directors of French Shia Muslim centre arrested

Meanwhile, senior State Department official yesterday claimed Hezbollah has stores of ammonium nitrate, a substance which can be used to make explosives, in several European countries, according to a report by AP.

The chemical, which caused last month’s massive explosion in Beirut, has been stored by Hezbollah in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years, according to Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism.

Sales, who offered no evidence for the claim, reportedly levied the allegations as part of a wider call for European countries to officially outlaw the Shia organisation, AP said.

“Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil?” Sales was quoted by AP as saying. “The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place, so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary.”

The EU has designated Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organisation, but not the group’s political arm, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years.

Other European states, such as GermanyKosovo and the UK, have outlawed both the organisation’s military and political arms, finding no distinction between the two. Sales, speaking yesterday, urged more countries to do the same.

READ: US will prevent Iran from getting China, Russia arms, Pompeo says

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