Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Hezbollah leader backs Lebanese relief

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BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Monday threw his support behind the government in seeking financial assistance from the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund but warned that the terms should be negotiated carefully.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s comments came four days after the country’s prime minister said Lebanon will seek a rescue deal from the IMF to help the nation find a way out of a crippling financial crisis.

Hezbollah has said that any IMF assistance should not infringe on Lebanon’s sovereignt­y or put in place policies harming the country’s poor. Opponents of the militant group say Hezbollah is more worried about protecting its political clout.

“We are not against Lebanon requesting assistance from any side in the world,” Nasrallah said in a one-hour televised speech, adding that what is not acceptable “is that we go hand over our necks to the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund or any other organizati­on.”

He added that the “conditions” of any IMF help should be dealt with “great responsibi­lity and strict caution.”

The Lebanese government’s decision to ask for assistance from the IMF came after the local currency crashed in recent weeks, losing more than half its value, and unemployme­nt reached levels unseen in decades.

Hezbollah’s support is widely seen as key for the current Cabinet.

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