Hezbollah calls on supporters to donate as sanctions pressure bites

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday called on its supporters to donate money as it comes under increasing pressure from Western sanctions intended to isolate it financially.

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has his picture on his head, during a live broadcast, the night before Muslim Shi'ites around the world mark the day of Ashura, in Beirut, Lebanon September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Hasan Shaaban/File Photo

The United States deems all parts of Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against the Iran-backed movement.

“I announce today that the resistance is in need of its (popular base),” Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, adding that donations were needed to support the group’s activities.

The Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government. It is also heavily armed and has sent fighters to the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Britain last month said it would list all elements of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization for destabilizing the Middle East, breaking with the rest of the European Union which proscribes only its military wing.

In a televised speech, Nasrallah said other nations may follow Britain’s example.

“The sanctions and the terror lists are a form of war ... we should deal with them as if they are a war,” he said.

He called on Hezbollah supporters to remain steadfast in the face of these pressures and said the group’s enemies would be “disappointed”.

“Their actions will not be able to make us poor, hungry or isolated. Those that support us will continue in their support - be they countries, people or our people and the people of resistance in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Its influence has expanded at home in Lebanon and in the region.

The group controls three of 30 ministries in the Lebanese government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the largest number ever. It does not acknowledge having separate political and military wings.

Hezbollah and political allies that view its arsenal as an asset to Lebanon won more than 70 of parliament’s 128 seats in an election last year, a major blow to Lebanese parties that oppose its possession of weapons like the Christian Lebanese Forces, which enjoys close ties to U.S.-allied Gulf states.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Editing by William Maclean