The Saudi-led bloc of Gulf monarchies has officially labelled Hezbollah a 'terrorist' group for the first time. The move comes amid heightened tensions between those countries and Lebanon.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon over an ongoing dispute involving Iran escalated on Wednesday when the Riyadh-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman - made the declaration.
The head of the GCC accused Hezbollah of "hostile acts" in the six-nation bloc. "The council's countries will take the necessary measures to put this decision into effect based on the terrorism-combat laws," Abdel-Latif al-Zayani said.
In response to the move, former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri said he would continue dialogue with Hezbollah.
In February, Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to leave Lebanon, with regional allies like the UAE and Bahrain following suit shortly afterward. Earlier that month, the country had also announced plans to halt billions of dollars in military aid to Beirut.
Iran at the center of tensions
Though Riyadh and its allies didn't give a reason for last month's move, observers believe it's in response to Beirut's failure to condemn an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protestors angry at Riyadh for executing a prominent Shiite cleric.
Wednesday's move follows Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's accusation that Riyadh is trying to spark a sectarian insurrection in the region.
Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist militant group and political party, is sponsored by the Lebanese government. Saudi Arabia and its allies have condemned the organization in the past. In addition, countries including the United States, the EU, the UK, Canada and Australia also consider it at least in part a terrorist organization.
blc/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)