UN takes aim at Hezbollah with warning for Lebanon to stay out of foreign conflicts

The United Nations Security Council has taken aim at Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its role in Syria, issuing a warning late on Friday for all Lebanese parties to dissociate themselves from any external conflicts.

The statement appeared to be directed at the Teheran-backed movement as fears rise about Iran’s increasing influence in the Lebanese government after a cabinet formation was confirmed on January 31.

The group has sent fighters into Syria in support of President Bashar Al Assad, backing him alongside Russia and Iran and helping his government reclaim much of the territory lost to rebels and extremist groups since the war started in 2011.

The council called on the Lebanese parties to implement such a policy “as an important priority”.

The council also reiterated its call for implementation of its resolutions which “require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon” except those of the state. This also appeared to be a direct aim at the Shiite terrorist group.

It welcomed the formation of a national unity government. Council members encouraged all political leaders to build on the momentum of the new government’s formation “to address the pressing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country” and called on the new government to urgently implement reforms, fight corruption and strengthen accountability.

But Israel and the United States have railed against Hezbollah’s boosted influence in the coalition. It now controls three ministries, including health, after months of wrangling.

The Shiite group named a doctor, Jamil Jabak, as health minister, the first time it has held a ministry with a big budget.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran now “controls the government of Lebanon” because of the group’s increasing influence in the Lebanese government.

“Iran has proxies. One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer, they actually control the government of Lebanon,” he said.

In response, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech on Monday in which he said that the group would never take state funds for its own benefit.

He said that its choice for the health ministry post was close to the movement but not a member.

“Of course, [Jabak] is a brother and friend. He is close and trusted… This is a ministry for all the Lebanese people,” Mr Nasrallah said. It is forbidden under Islamic law to misuse state funds, he said.

In another speech on Wednesday, Mr Nasrallah said the group would defend Iran in the event of war with the United States. He said the so-called axis of resistance, led by Iran, is the strongest it has ever been. The axis groups the Syrian government of Mr Assad with Shiite militias in Iraq and Hezbollah.

He also said he would be willing to receive military equipment from Iran to help in the event of a conflict with Israel. “I’m a friend of Iran and I’m willing to bring the Lebanese Army air defence systems from Iran to confront Israel,” Nasrallah said, according to Lebanon’s Naharnet news site.

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