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Hezbollah says U.S. sanctions aim to stir unrest in Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament said on Thursday that proposed new U.S. sanctions against the powerful Iran-backed group aimed to provoke unrest in Lebanon.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday endorsed new sanctions on the Shi’ite Hezbollah militia, part of an effort to increase pressure on Iran. The new sanctions have not yet become law.

“The sanctions law ... is a blatant interference in Lebanese internal affairs, a violation of its national sovereignty and an unacceptable targeting of the Lebanese people,” Hezbollah parliamentarian Hassan Fadlallah said in a televised statement.

“America aims, through this aggressive behavior in legislation, to subjugate Lebanon, to stir unrest and deprive its people of development,” Fadlallah said.

Hezbollah is in Lebanon’s delicate, national unity government and fights alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s more than six-year long conflict.

It is classified as a terrorist group by Washington and on Wednesday the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the European Union to do the same.

One of the measures passed by the House of Representatives was an amendment strengthening the 2015 U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) which aimed to sever the group’s global funding networks.

When HIFPA was introduced it caused alarm in Beirut where the government feared major damage to the banking sector that underpins Lebanon’s economy.

But Lebanon’s central bank Governor Riad Salameh told Reuters on Tuesday Lebanon had mechanisms already in place to deal with any new sanctions.

Salameh also said this week the American Treasury appeared content with how Lebanon was applying sanctions regulations.

“They consider the measures which Lebanon’s central bank has put in place to be sufficient”, he said after a visit to the U.S., in a statement distributed by Lebanon’s presidential media office.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Laila Bassam; editing by Ralph Boulton