BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- Lebanon’s parliament speaker said Wednesday that the United States’ move to place two of Hezbollah’s parliamentarians on its sanctions blacklist was an assault on his country.
"It is an assault on the parliament and as a result an assault on all of Lebanon,” said Nabih Berri, the head of the Amal party, according to the Reuters news agency.
The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday added Lebanese lawmakers Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Raad to a terror-related blacklist. Also placed on the blacklist was Wafiq Safa, a top official of the resistance movement.
Hezbollah fighters have backed government forces in neighboring Syria in the war that broke out there in 2011 and last fought a war with the occupying regime of Israel in 2006.
On Tuesday, lawmaker Ali Fayyad said the move "is a humiliation for the Lebanese people” and called on parliament and the government to issue a formal condemnation.
Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil meanwhile tweeted that the U.S. sanctions "concern all of the Lebanese even if they are directed at Hezbollah” and are "unjustified.”
After the U.S. Treasury’s announcement, Hezbollah television Al-Manar said the movement’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was due to appear Friday on TV.
Nasrallah is due to address a series of Lebanese and regional issues and is expected to also discuss the latest sanctions.
Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war, and is now a major political player in the country. It won 13 seats out of 128 in the May 6, 2018 general election, and holds three cabinet posts.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Wednesday the U.S. sanctions targeting Hezbollah MPs moved in a "new direction” from existing measures, but would not affect government work.
"It is a new matter that we will deal with as we see fit ... The important thing is to preserve the banking sector and the Lebanese economy and, God willing, this crisis will pass sooner or later,” he said.
Hezbollah’s political clout in Lebanon has widened since an election last year yielded a parliamentary majority for the movement and its political allies.
President Michel Aoun said the country "regrets” the measures and will follow up with U.S. authorities.
Hezbollah has not issued a formal statement about the latest sanctions. Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar told Lebanese broadcaster LBC on Wednesday the sanctions were a "medal of honor”.
"The American action is an attack on national sovereignty and it is a government duty to defend this sovereignty and protect it,” he said.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. The government aims to avert a financial crisis with long-delayed reforms to put state finances on a sustainable path.