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Blacklisting of Hizballah by Gulf harms Lebanon, says Iran

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdollahian says Hizballah is a bulwark against terrorism in region [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 March, 2016

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Iran's deputy foreign minister says a decision by a Saudi-led bloc of Gulf states to label the Lebanese group Hizballah as a terrorist organisation is a 'mistake.'

Iran has warned that its Gulf Arab rivals are jeopardising Lebanon's stability by blacklisting a leading force behind the Beirut government, Hizballah, as a terror group.

Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Thursday that the Shia group, which is one of Iran's closest allies, was a bulwark against terrorism in the region.

"We are proud of Lebanon's Hizballah as the vanguard of resistance against the Zionist regime and the champion of the fight against terrorism in the region," Abdollahian told Iran's official IRNA news agency.

Abdollahian said the Gulf Cooperation Council's move was a "new mistake" that would undermine peace in the region and the unity of Lebanon.

"Those who call Hizballah terrorists, have intentionally or unintentionally harmed the unity and security of Lebanon."

Wednesday's move against Hizballah by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council was the latest salvo in an intensifying battle for regional influence between Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Riyadh has been alarmed by the international rehabilitation of Tehran since it reached a deal with major powers last year ending a 13-year standoff over its controversial nuclear programme.

Saudi Arabia has also been angered by the military intervention of Hizballah in neighbouring Syria since 2013 in support of Iran-backed President Bashar al-Assad against rebels it is backing.

Hizballah fighters have been active against the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda, but they have also battled non-extremist rebel groups supported by the Gulf states and the West.

The intensifying battle for influence between the region's main Sunni and Shia powers has sparked growing concern in Lebanon, which relies heavily on the Gulf states for tourism, investment and as a market for its exports.

In January, Riyadh led several Arab countries in cutting diplomatic ties with Tehran after demonstrators burned its embassy and a consulate in protest at its execution of a prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr.

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