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Lebanese Hezbollah and allied parties condemn U.S. sanctions on former ministers

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two Lebanese political parties allied with Hezbollah said on Wednesday they would not be swayed by U.S. sanctions imposed on its members, with the Shi’ite Muslim Amal group saying Washington’s move was like targeting the whole nation.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil speaks during a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo

The United States expanded sanctions related to Lebanon on Tuesday by blacklisting two former government ministers, including Amal’s Ali Hassan Khalil. It said the two men had aided Hezbollah, which Washington brands a terrorist group.

Hezbollah condemned the move and said the U.S. sanctions policy would not achieve Washington’s goals in Lebanon, adding in a statement that it would stand by the two men.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun requested the country’s caretaker foreign minister make contact with the U.S. “in order to understand the circumstances” behind the decision.

Alongside the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah, Amal is one of two dominant Shi’ite factions in Lebanon’s fractious sectarian political system.

The U.S. move comes at a sensitive time, as a new government is being formed under a tight deadline in a bid to extricate Lebanon from a deep economic crisis that poses the biggest threat to the country’s stability since the 1975-1990 civil war.

“This (U.S.) decision will not change our convictions and our national and patriotic principles at all,” Amal said in a statement issued after Washington added the senior Amal politician and former finance minister, Khalil, to a blacklist.

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The group said imposing sanctions on Khalil was like “targeting Lebanon and its sovereignty.”

The United States also blacklisted former Transport Minister Yusuf Finyanus, a Christian politician who is a member of the Marada party that is also allied to Hezbollah.

Marada’s leader, Suleiman Frangieh, said his party would not be influenced by Washington’s decision, the Lebanese state news agency reported.

In a statement, Frangieh said Washington’s move to impose sanctions on Finyanus was a “political decision” that would reinforce “our approach and our position.”

Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, named after the last government quit following a massive Beirut port blast in August, is seeking to form a cabinet by early next week, under pressure from France which is leading an international push for deep reforms to unlock pledges of aid.

Reporting by Laila Bassam and Raya Jalabi; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Toby Chopra

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