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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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Arab League in uproar after Hezbollah designated as terrorist group

Arab League has passed a resolution referring to the Lebanese group as terrorist

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CAIRO, Egypt - The Arab world has fractured over the treatment of Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah.> Big News Network

Tensions have risen dividing countries over the role of the Lebanese Shia political organisation which has a military wing, with the Gulf monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, leading measures to isolate the group, while others including Syria, Algeria and Iran have publicly supported it.

On Friday in Cairo at a meeting of the Arab League, where Saudi Arabia was seeking to have Hezbollah designated as a terrorist group, in the way the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) did last week, there was uproar. Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a defiant speech praised Hezbollah and pledged Iraq's solidarity with the group, which he described as a force of resistance.

The six- Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, have been edging closer to forging an alliance with Israel which considers Hezbollah a terrorist group. Last week Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa reportedly told a visiting Rabbi that in his opinion it was just a matter of time before some Arab countries began establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. Israeli Prime Minister and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in a private meeting this week "brainstormed" on the ways in which this can be brought about.

In referring to the challenges Israel faced, Mr Netanyahu in welcoming the vice president to Israel said, "But we're also standing before great opportunities, and I think some of them stem from these great challenges. The first opportunity is to deepen ties between Israel and the moderate Arab states, and this could help us build a solid foundation for peace and stability."

In rponse, Mr Biden said: "If you had talked in the region as a whole, four years ago, about whether any Arab states were under some conditions prepared to make peace, real peace with Israel, it would have been, at least I would have said, there's no shot. Common enemies make the, you know, you know, the enemy Anyway, you get the torrent. And so I think there are possibilities here. I did not come with a plan. I just came to speak to a friend and to be able to have an open discussion in a closed room, where we brainstorm the whole range of things."

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday Saudi Arabia was trying to instigate "strife" between Shias and Sunnis in the region. He told Lebanese people not to be intimidated by "threats posed by Riyadh and Tel Aviv."

In a strongly worded attack on those pressuring Hezbollah, al-Jaafari said they themselves were the "terrorists."

"Whoever accuses the Popular Mobilization forces and Hezbollah of terrorism is the one who supports and adopts terrorism," Jaafari said in his speech, according to a foreign ministry source quoted by the Iraqi Media News Agency (WAA).

Jaafari promised solidarity with Hezbollah in his speech, declaring that the "Popular Mobilization forces and Hezbollah safeguarded the dignity of Arabs."

He described the group's Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallahas "an Arab hero who defended values and principles."

The Saudi Arabian delegation reportedly stormed out midway through the Iraqi foreign minister's speech, gesturing angrily to others to join them. The delegation however left alone.

Despite the strong opposition of Iraq, and that of Lebanon, most of the twenty two nations in attendance supported the resolution. "The statement issued by the Arab League includes calling Hezbollah 'terrorist,' and there was a consensus on the decision with abstention from Lebanon and Iraq, and a reservation from Algeria," a statement read out by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar at the conclusion of the meeting said.

It was the second time the Arab League has passed a resolution referring to the Lebanese group as terrorist. The last time was in January.

Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Kattan appearing on Al-Arabiya television after the meeting warned the Gulf states had more in store for the beleaguered group.

"We will deal with Hezbollah as we deal with any terrorist organisation," he said. "Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have begun preparing measures it will take against that terrorist party and they will be announced at the right time," he added.

Morocco refused to host the 2016 Arab League meeting as intended, saying it wanted to avoid giving a false impression of unity in the Arab world.

The pan-Arab organisation on Friday unanimously agreed to appoint former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit as the new chief to replace outgoing secretary-general Nabil Al-Araby, 80, who knocked back a second 5-year term.

Founded in Cairo in 1945, the Arab League is a regional organisation of Arab states with the main goal of drawing closer inter-Arab relations and coordinating Arab positions on regional and international issues.

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