Hezbollah brushes off US sanctions, says money comes via Iran

Supporters of Lebanon's militant Shiite movement Hezbollah watch a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, in the southern town of Insar, in the Nabatiyeh district on March 6, 2016 (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Beirut (AFP) - Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Friday said his group would not be affected by fresh US sanctions because it receives its money directly from Iran, not via Lebanese banks.

In a speech broadcast by the Shiite party's Al-Manar station, Nasrallah brushed off assertions that Hezbollah would be hurt by US sanctions on Lebanese financial institutions that work with the group.

"We do not have any business projects or investments via banks," Nasrallah said, insisting the group "will not be affected."

"We are open about the fact that Hezbollah's budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added.

Iran was instrumental in Hezbollah's inception three decades ago and has provided financial and military support to the group.

In December, the US Congress voted to impose sanctions on banks that deal with Hezbollah, considered a "terrorist group" by the US.

And last month, Lebanon's central bank instructed the country's banks and financial institutions to comply with the new measure against the Lebanese Shiite group.

Hezbollah has fiercely criticised the law and accused central bank governor Riad Salameh of "yielding" to Washington's demands.

"As long as Iran has money, we have money... Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it," Nasrallah said.

The Hezbollah chief also warned that some banks were applying the law too harshly and shutting down the accounts of Lebanese charities.

Earlier this month, a bomb exploded outside the Beirut headquarters of BLOM BANK, one of the country's largest, wounding one person.

Several Lebanese newspapers known to be critical of Hezbollah said at the time the explosion was a "message" to banks complying with the US ruling.

Washington has labelled Hezbollah a global terrorist group since 1995, accusing it of a long list of attacks including the bombing of the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983.