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  • A car drives past a poster depicting Lebanon

    A car drives past a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Houla village, southern Lebanon, November 7, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Nasrallah slammed the Saudi-led bloc and their close ties with Israel, asking how they have contributed to the fight against the Islamic State group.

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has denounced Saudi moves to isolate and attack the group as “silly” and “absurd,” flatly denying Gulf Arab accusations that they have been shipping weapons to loosely-aligned movements in regional countries like Yemen and Bahrain while striking a triumphant tone about his fighters' recent string of military victories abroad.

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On Sunday, the Saudi-led Arab League denounced the Lebanese Shia organization during an extraordinary meeting in Cairo on Sunday, calling the group "terrorist" and demanding it halt its alleged involvement in regional conflicts where it has been "spreading extremism".

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called the ministerial-level meeting to discuss "violations" by its rival Tehran, which it claims backs armed movements across the region. Saudi-Iranian relations have reached new lows amid mutual charges that the two states support opposing sides in Yemen, Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

The ultraconservative monarchy was gripped by fury after it claimed to intercept a ballistic missile fired at Riyadh by armed Yemeni groups aligned with the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which the Saudi-led military coalition bombing the country claimed was supplied by Iran. Riyadh has been mired in a quagmire since launching a war on the country in 2015.

In a televised address on Monday, Secretary-General Nasrallah said his group was not involved in the attack, as the Saudis have alleged.

"I categorically deny it," Nasrallah said. "No man from Lebanese Hezbollah had any part in the firing of this missile or any missiles fired previously."

According to a recently-leaked confidential brief by members of a U.N. Security Council-appointed panel of experts, Saudi Arabia has failed to provide evidence proving its claims that Iran or any other party transferred short-range ballistic missiles to the Houthi rebels in violation of Security Council resolutions. Likewise, the panel analyzed possible supply routes for sending large shipping containers containing ballistic missiles and found that any such shipment would stand a very high chance of being intercepted.

Nasrallah questioned why the Arab ministers failed to call for a peaceful resolution to the war in Yemen: “Ask Saudi Arabia to stop the crushing of children’s bones and its massacres ... Press for a political solution, this blatant and suspicious silence in the Islamic world is unacceptable.”

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He also rejected accusations that Hezbollah was sending weapons to regional conflict zones.

"We haven't sent weapons to any Arab country – no ballistic missiles, advanced weapons, not even a pistol," he said, later clarifying that his fighters had taken arms with them to Syria.

Nasrallah also asserted that it had sent advanced weaponry to Palestinian resistance movements such as Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including the powerful Russian-made Korent anti-tank missiles. "I take pride in that,” Nasrallah said.

The Arab League meeting's concluding statement said it would hold Hezbollah "responsible for supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations in Arab countries with modern weapons and ballistic missiles," a charge dismissed by the Hezbollah leader as "trivial and ridiculous."

Addressing the Arab and Muslim people, Nasrallah said: “You can listen to Israeli comments on coordination between them and some Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia ... It’s enough to quote the criminal former Israeli Defense Minister (Moshe) Yaalon who said ‘It is not by accident that Al-Jubeir says in Arabic what we say in Hebrew’.”

“There are Arab countries that want to forge ties with Israel – namely Saudi Arabia. The interview by (head of the Israeli army Gadi) Eizenkot to the Saudi website Elaph is a dangerous development for the Palestinians.”

Continuing, Nasrallah discussed last week's reports suggesting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was delivered an ultimatum earlier this month by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to accept a yet-to-be-revealed White House “peace plan” favoring Israeli interests or to resign from his post. He was also instructed to halt the ongoing rapprochement process between Palestinian factions Hamas and the president's Fatah movement.

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“There is pressure on Palestinian to accept dictates that will kill the Palestinian issue under what some are calling the ‘deal of the century,’” Sayyed Nasrallah said, in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “peace” initiative.

While rejecting the “terrorist” label and accusations of regional meddling, Nasrallah slammed the Saudi-led group of Arab countries, asking what they have contributed to the fight against the Islamic State group.

Lauding Hezbollah's involvement in major battlefield victories against the Islamic State group, Nasrallah noted that he was ready to pull Hezbollah's fighters back from Iraq after the Sunni extremists lost the town of Rawa near the border with Syria.

"We consider that the mission has been accomplished, but we are waiting for the final, Iraqi announcement of victory," he said. Noting that Hezbollah had deployed "large numbers of our commanders and cadres" to Iraq and would gladly return home, but would also assist their Iraqi allies if their presence was needed.

Hezbollah has also dispatched thousands of fighters to neighboring Syria, where they are bolstering President Bashar al-Assad's troops. This past weekend, the Syrian Arab Army and allied militia ousted the Islamic State group from Albu Kamal, the last town the jihadists had controlled in Syria.

“Today, with the liberation of the last pocket... of Albu Kamal, history will mark the end of Daesh as a state," Nasrallah said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “We must work to attack the remnants of Daesh because it is a cancerous entity that can return.”

Continuing, Nasrallah discussed what he described as U.S. military support for the Islamic State group, an allegation that Russia and Turkey have also made in recent weeks.

Nasrallah accused the U.S. Air Force of securing aerial coverage for the Islamic State group, allowing the extremists to maneuver openly in U.S.-controlled territory in Syria while preventing Russian jets from targeting the group east of the Euphrates. He also said the U.S. has provided coordinates to the group, provided helicopter evacuation for Islamic State group leaders and facilitated the withdrawal of combatants to conflict-zones in Syria where it could be used to fight government troops.

“This is a scandal for the U.S. administration and this has become exposed, as Turkey’s president has accused the U.S. of supporting the Islamic State group financially.”

Shifting to Lebanese domestic affairs, Nasrallah discussed the issue of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose sudden resignation earlier this month from Riyadh and extended stay in the city prompted accusations – even from Lebanese President Michel Aoun – that Hariri was being held "hostage" by Saudi authorities.

On Monday, Nasrallah said he did not consider Hariri's resignation to be final and said all Lebanese factions were awaiting the premier's arrival.

"The priority is the return of PM Saad Hariri to Lebanon," he said, adding that he was "open" to dialogue.

Nasrallah then turned the Arab League's accusation on its head, warning others not to meddle in Lebanon.

"Do not intervene in Lebanon's affairs, like the blatant, brazen intervention we have seen over the past two weeks."


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