Hezbollah denies using Lebanon's port for arms smuggling

 Hezbollah denies using Lebanons port for arms smuggling

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Friday denied using Beirut's sea port to import arms in response to an accusation by Israel's United Nations envoy this week.

"I completely deny the claim of the Israeli representative in the Security Council that Hezbollah uses the Beirut port to transfer weapons or weapon components into Lebanon," Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a television speech.

He added that the Israeli comments were aimed at bringing multinational forces to impose controls over Lebanon's sea, air and land borders.

Israel's U.N. ambassador Danny Danon said on Tuesday that in 2018 and 2019 "Israel found that Iran and the Quds Forces have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels". He said Beirut port "is now the Port of Hezbollah".

Lebanon's U.N ambassador Amal Mudallali said the accusation was tantamount to "direct threats" to Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. [nL2N24O1LT]

Iran set up Hezbollah in the early 1980s to battle Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000. Israel and Hezbollah fought another brief war in 2006 and Israel has called Hezbollah the biggest threat on its borders.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Angus McDowall; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Updated Date: Jul 27, 2019 00:07:37 IST