Lebanon's Hezbollah talks to government about Iran fuel idea
The powerful Hezbollah group said on Tuesday it is in talks with the Lebanese government about the possibility of Iran supplying the country with refined oil products in exchange for Lebanese pounds. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, said a "calm discussion" was underway with the Beirut government over the idea that would ease the pressure on Beirut's hard currency reserves.
Lebanon is suffering an acute financial crisis and hard currency liquidity crunch. The Lebanese pound has lost some 80% of its value since October, when the long-brewing crisis came to a head.
"We started a discussion...to see where this option can go," Nasrallah said in a televised speech. "This track is moving...What's the result going to be? I don't know. But we have to try," he said. Iran will announce its official position on the matter at the appropriate moment, he added.
Hezbollah, Lebanon's Iran-backed paramilitary organisation
Hezbollah, or Party of God, was conceived by Muslim clerics in the 1980s in response to the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982. The Shia group has a political and military wing.
National support against Israel: Hezbollah emerged in the 1980s as an amalgamation of Shia militias and played a major role in the Lebanese civil war. It used guerrilla warfare to drive Israeli forces out of South Lebanon – Israel withdrew in 2000. Israel and Hezbollah fought another war in 2006. Its defence of Lebanon against Israel won it cross-sectarian support and acceptance in Lebanese society
Backed by Iran: since its creation, Hezbollah has received military, financial and political support from Iran and Syria. Today, Hezbollah's military wing is more powerful than Lebanon's own army and has become a major regional paramilitary force
Political apparatus: Hezbollah turned its focus to politics following the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. It represents a large section of the Lebanese Shia population and is allied with other sectarian groups, including Christians. Their political development has mostly come under Hassan Nasrallah (pictured), who became the group's leader in 1992
Armed wing: unlike other parties in Lebanon's multi-sided 1975-1990 civil war, Hezbollah did not disband its armed wing. Some Lebanese political groups, such as former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, want Hezbollah to put down its arms. Hezbollah argues its militant wing is necessary to defend against Israel and other external threats
Terror group? A number of countries and bodies, including the United States, Israel, Canada, the Arab League and, most recently, Germany, consider Hezbollah a terrorist organisation. However, Australia and many European Union countries differentiate between its legitimate political activities and its militant wing
Hezbollah enters Syria's civil war: Hezbollah has been one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country's civil war. Its entrance into the war helped save Assad, one of its chief patrons; secured weapons supply routes from Syria and formed a buffer zone around Lebanon against Sunni militant groups it feared would take over Syria. As a result it has won considerable support from Shia communities in Lebanon
Sectarianism: Lebanon has long been at the centre of regional power struggles, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, Hezbollah's military and political ascendancy, as well as its intervention in Syria, have also helped stoke Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions in Lebanon and across the region
Renewed conflict with Israel? Iran and Hezbollah have increased their political and military strength through the war in Syria. Israel views this as a threat and has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Iran/Hezbollah targets in Syria. Israel has vowed to not let Iran and Hezbollah create a permanent presence in Syria. There is growing concern of another war between Hezbollah and Israel that could draw in Iran. (Author: Chase Winter)
The Shia Muslim Hezbollah, which is classified as a terrorist group by the United States, supports Prime Minister Hassan Diab's government.
Nasrallah also criticised the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, for what he described as interference in the country's affairs.
Hezbollah lawmakers will submit a petition to the foreign ministry to summon her to ask that she adheres to agreements on diplomatic norms, he said.
A Shia judge last month issued a ruling banning media in Lebanon from interviewing Shea after she heaped criticism on Hezbollah, saying her comments had incited sectarian strife.
Shea was later summoned for a meeting at the foreign ministry after which she said the page had been turned on the incident. Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti emphasised the importance of media freedom and the right to free expression during the meeting, the ministry said in a statement. (Reuters)