FACTBOX: Facts about Lebanon's Hezbollah

Sat May 10, 2008 2:19pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Following are facts about Lebanese group Hezbollah:

HISTORY

* Hezbollah, meaning "Party of God" in Arabic, shares the Shi'ite Islamist ideology of the Iranian state and was set up by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982 to fight Israeli forces that had invaded Lebanon. Hezbollah still has strong support from Tehran. It is also backed by Damascus. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.

* The group fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon and 159 in Israel. Despite U.N. resolutions and an expanded peaceforce, Hezbollah has rearmed since. It had also waged a military campaign against Israeli forces which occupied mainly Shi'ite south Lebanon until their withdrawal in 2000.

* Shadowy groups linked to Hezbollah launched suicide attacks on Western targets and took Westerners hostage in Beirut in the 1980s. The most spectacular attack was a suicide bombing that destroyed the U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 servicemen. One of the groups, Islamic Jihad, was thought to be led by Imad Moughniyah, who was Hezbollah's military commander when he was assassinated on February 13 in Syria.

HEZBOLLAH TODAY

* It is both a political movement and a guerrilla army. It draws its support from among Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim population and has more influence in that community than any other Shi'ite faction.

* Hezbollah entered Lebanese politics more visibly in 2005 after Syrian troops were forced to leave the country and a coalition of anti-Damascus factions took control of government. The group had two ministers in the cabinet of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora until they quit in November 2006 in protest at the governing coalition's refusal to give the opposition effective veto power in cabinet. The group has 14 MPs.

* The group has led an opposition alliance against Siniora's government for 17 months. Its allies include the Shi'ite Amal movement and Christian leader Michel Aoun.

* Hezbollah is by far the most dominant military force in Lebanon, stronger than any other faction and the country's army. It says its arsenal is crucial for defending Lebanon from Israel and will only consider giving it up as part of a national defense strategy.

* U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and France and adopted in September 2004, called for all Lebanese militias to be disbanded and disarmed. Hezbollah, the only such militia, is still defying the resolution.

* Hezbollah had long stated that its weapons are only for use against Israel. But its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on May 8 said in public for the first time that the group is prepared to use its guns against domestic foes in the face of a threat to its arsenal.

(Writing by Tom Perry in Beirut)

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