Hezbollah owns weapons across Europe, including the explosives that detonated Beirut, the US government said last night.
Hezbollah activists have been transporting ammonium nitrate through Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland since 2012, the Foreign Ministry said, and are increasing pressure on Europe to ban the Iran-backed group.
Counterterrorism officer Nathan Sales said Hezbollah smuggles the substance in first aid kits containing ammonium nitrate hidden in a cold packages.
The substance can be used to make explosives and can be very dangerous to store – as demonstrated by the Beirut blasts that killed nearly 200 people and destroyed much of the city last month.
The US government issued a warning late Thursday asking Europe to ban the organization, which has long been under US sanctions.
Washington differs from the EU in that it considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, while Brussels distinguishes between its political and military wings.
Hezbollah supplies of ammonium nitrate are still across Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain, according to the US government.
Hezbollah’s elected body has in recent years been part of the Lebanese government widely blamed for the August 4 disaster in Beirut.
Several countries, including Britain and Germany, have banned the group altogether. But France, a former colonial power in Lebanon that is leading the reconstruction effort in Beirut, says Hezbollah’s political arm is playing a legitimate role.
This led to pressure from the United States to warn that the Hezbollah weaponry could undermine Emmanuel Macron’s reform efforts.
The warnings from Sales was made on an online forum organized by the American Jewish Committee which is calling on more countries to ban Hezbollah.
The Shiite military group is backed by Iran, which has been subject to US sanctions since Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago.
Lebanese political leaders yesterday missed a French deadline to form an emergency government after explosions ravaged Beirut.
Macron has set a time limit of two weeks to agree on a number of experts to deal with the country’s crisis. However, that deadline ended Wednesday.
The explosion sparked an explosion in the ruling elite believed to be corrupt and incompetent and forced the government to step down.
France and other international powers refuse to provide much-needed assistance until major reforms are implemented.
The two main Shiite groups in the usual power-sharing agreements in Lebanon are pushing for the Treasury Department to be kept under their control, thwarting efforts to reach a deal.