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Saudi-led bloc declares Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group

Thursday 3 March 2016, by siawi3


People wave the flags of Lebanon and Iranian-backed Hezbollah at a rally last year in Beirut. (Nabil Mounzer/EPA)
By Hugh Naylor March 2 at 7:25 AM

BEIRUT — A Saudi-dominated political bloc on Wednesday formally designated Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia a terrorist organization, a move that signals dangerously escalating tensions between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s decision against the Iranian-allied group comes two weeks after Saudi Arabia canceled $4 billion aid package for strengthening Lebanese security services. Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states have advised their citizens to leave Lebanon.

An announcement posted on the GCC website accused Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite Muslim movement, of unspecified hostile acts in the six states in the bloc: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

The growing rifts between Saudi Arabia and Iran have rattled Lebanon, where both nations have competing influence. Saudi Arabia and Iran are also on opposing sides in the neighboring civil war in neighboring Syria, where fighting has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced millions.

Militants from Iran and Hezbollah are battling inside Syria to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against a rebellion that is supported with money and weapons from Saudi Arabia and others.

Saudi Arabia and other allied nations broke ties with Iran in January. The fallout came after mobs stormed Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in protest over Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric accused of anti-state crimes.

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Hugh Naylor is a Beirut-based correspondent for The Post. He has reported from over a dozen countries in the Middle East for such publications as The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, and The New York Times.