Washington is waging a covert war against Hezbollah, according to the militant group, which accuses the US administration of arming anti-Hezbollah militias and seeking to undermine the Lebanese army in moves which could plunge the country back into civil war.
"[US Vice President] Dick Cheney has given orders for a covert war against Hezbollah ... there is now a US program that is using Lebanon to further its goals in the region," said Sheikh Naim Qasim, Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general, in an interview in a safe house deep in Beirut's Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs.
The accusation follows reports in the US and British media that the CIA has been authorized to take covert action against the militant Shia group, which receives substantial military backing from Iran, as part of wider strategy by the Bush administration to prevent the spread of Iranian influence in the region.
According to the reports, US intelligence agencies are authorized to provide "non-lethal" funding to anti-Hezbollah groups in Lebanon and to activists who support the western-backed government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
But Hezbollah accused the Lebanese government of arming groups across the country.
"This happens with the knowledge of the prime minister and is facilitated by the security forces under his command," Sheikh Qasim said.
The Bush administration set aside US$60 million to fund the interior ministry's internal security force, which has almost doubled in size to 24,000 troops.
Sheikh Qasim said there was a growing anti-Hezbollah bias in the security services.
"The internal security forces have not succeeded in playing a balanced role ... The sectarian issue is very delicate when it comes to the security services," he said.
Cabinet minister Ahmed Fatfat told the Los Angeles Times late last year that the increase in interior ministry personnel was to counter the growing influence of Iran and its Shia ally in Lebanon.
Sheikh Qasim said Hezbollah did not rule out another confrontation with Israel this summer and confirmed that the group was rearming.
"We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] in that direction," he said.
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