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  • A Hezbollah rally in Lebanon.

    A Hezbollah rally in Lebanon. | Photo: AFP

Published 12 March 2016

Lebanon and Iraq did not join the resolution saying the Lebanese Shiite group was popular and instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The Arab League labeled Friday Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah a "terrorist" organization as tensions rise between Sunni and Shi'ite powers across the Middle East.

"The Arab League foreign minister's committee has decided on Friday to consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization," said a statement from the Arab League carried by Egyptian state news agency Mena.

The decision was approved by 22 countries except for lebanon and Iraq who expressed “reservations”, according to the statement.

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The Saudi delegation stormed out of the meeting after Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari defended in his speech Shiite Hashd Shaabi militia group which is collaborating with the Iraqi army in the fight against the Islamic State group.

"In his speech (the minister) said that Hashd Shaabi and Hezbollah had preserved the dignity of the Arabs and those who call them terrorists are the terrorists," an unnamed Iraqi foreign ministry source told Reuters.

The decision by the league came days after the Gulf Cooperation Council approved a resolution also labeling Hezbollah a terrorist group.

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Also Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil wrote in a tweet following the meeting that his country “voiced reservations because the resolution was not in line with the Arab anti-terror treaty ... Hezbollah enjoys wide representation in Lebanon and it is a main component in the country."

Hezbollah enjoys support in Lebanon and abroad because it managed to end the decades-long Israeli occupation of south of Lebanon in 2000 after years of armed struggle.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies have been using the Arab league as a forum to expand their agenda in the region amid escalating sectarian sentiments in the region due to wars and conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

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Saudi Arabia, a major Sunni power in the region has been accusing its arch enemy Iran, which adheres to the Shiite sect of Islam, of supporting Shiite groups in Syria and Yemen, something Iran flatly denies.

The tensions between Tehran and Riyadh reached an all-time high after the Saudi embassy in Iran was attacked by angry demonstrators who were protesting the kingdom executed Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

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Following the attack, Saudi Arabia and several regional allies cut diplomatic ties with Iran. However, Lebanon did not join the anti-Iran Saudi move prompting Riyadh to retaliate by cutting more than US$4 billion in aid to Beirut and warning citizens against traveling to the country in a bid to hurt the tourism sector there.

Hezbollah receives financial support from Iran, while both support Syrian President Bashar Assad, who Saudi Arabia says must leave power.

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