Saudi Arabia welcomes British ban of Hezbollah

Saudi Arabia says British decision to outlaw the political wing of Hezbollah is an "important and constructive" step.

Elad Benari,

Hezbollah supporters
Hezbollah supporters

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday welcomed Britain's decision to outlaw the political wing of the Hezbollah terrorist organization, describing it as an "important and constructive" step, AFP reports.

Britain announced on February 25 it would seek to make membership of the group or inviting support for it a crime.

The British move follows warnings by MPs that the UK had drawn a false distinction by proscribing Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political side.

This loophole in British law has allowed participants in the annual Al-Quds Day to march through central London to wave the Hezbollah flag, featuring an assault rifle.

"Categorizing the (Hezbollah) militia, which is backed by Iran, as a terrorist organization is an important and constructive step in combatting terrorism around the world," said a Saudi foreign ministry source, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

"Britain's decision is in line with the decision Saudi Arabia has taken towards the terrorist party, both politically and militarily," the source added.

Britain’s move was welcomed by the United States and by Israel. Iran, meanwhile, strongly condemned the move, calling it “irresponsible”.

Iran is a key supporter of Hezbollah. Last October, American and western intelligence sources said Iran was supplying Hezbollah with Global Positioning System (GPS) components to make previously unguided rockets into precision guided-missiles.

In 2013, the European Union blacklisted Hezbollah's “military wing” as a terrorist organization, while failing to blacklist the group’s political arm.

While the EU has failed to blacklist the entirety of Hezbollah, several Arab countries have done so.

In 2013, Bahrain became the first Arab country to blacklist Hezbollah, citing evidence that the group was attempting to incite terrorism from abroad.

In 2016, the Gulf Cooperation Council -- which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization.