BEIRUT: The UK on Friday said it had added the whole Hezbollah movement to its terrorism blacklist and frozen all its assets.
HM Treasury previously targeted the movement’s military wing, but the new sanctions classify all Hezbollah organizations and institutions under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2020 and freeze all its assets.
Hezbollah had “publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the treasury said on its website. “The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism and was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK in March 2019. This listing includes the Military Wing, the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it, including the External Security Organisation.”
The sanctions come amid continued wrangling in Lebanon over the formation of a new government comprising 18 ministers from one political camp: Hezbollah and its allies.
Three main political parties — the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces — are boycotting the new government.
Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “They claim that they are about to form a government of technocrats and specialists, at a time when they are openly disputing over shares and ministries, as if we are living in a normal situation with no crisis in the country, nor protesters in the streets.”
The country has been roiled by demonstrations, political instability and an economic crisis. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigned on Oct. 29, two weeks after the start of peaceful protests against tax increases and corruption.
HM Treasury has designated the entire organisation of Hizballah under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010. This asset freeze aligns with the decision made last year by the Chancellor - when Home Secretary – to proscribe the entire organisationhttps://t.co/CcdituHV03
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) January 17, 2020
Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab was tasked last month to form a new government and there were hopes a new cabinet would be formed by the end of this week.
Hariri has become more vocal about the obstacles blighting political negotiations, saying Thursday evening that the ones who fought his politics were also the ones who had brought the country to this “crisis situation.”
Hezbollah had previously said it wanted him to head the new government, but the group’s Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem recently criticized the policies of previous governments that were characterized with “financial waste, corruption, and protection of law breakers.”
These factors had, he warned, put Lebanon on the track leading to a “great economic and social crisis.”
“There will always be those who are not content with anything, those who have legitimate suspicions, and those who consider that they were excluded and who will try to obstruct the path of the government so that it would not succeed,” he added.
Former minister Pierre Raffoul, from the Free Patriotic Movement, accused Hariri of playing “an essential role” in obstructing the formation of the new government.
Public affairs expert Dr. Walid Fakhreddin ruled out a new government being formed soon but said the delay had more to do with regional developments, including the assassination of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani.
But protesters are keeping up the pressure on authorities and institutions, with banks the focus of widespread anger.
Video footage showed a woman confronting protesters while they were smashing the glass of banks on Hamra Street. She can be heard asking where they are from, then telling them to go elsewhere. “Shame on you for terrorizing the inhabitants of Beirut,” she said.