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Netanyahu: Iran controls Lebanese government through Hezbollah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of United Nations ambassadors that Iran controls Lebanon after its Middle East neighbor formed a new government Friday.

Speaking to the group of about 40 ambassadors from U.N. nations including Panama, Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Mongolia, and Liberia on Sunday, Netanyahu said Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's decision to name Iran-supported Hezbollah's Jamal Jabak as the new Lebanese health minister gave Iran influence over Lebanon's government.

"Iran has many branches," said Netanyahu. "One of them is Hezbollah that has now joined Lebanon's government. This is actually misleading; Hezbollah essentially controls the government of Lebanon, which means that Iran controls the Lebanese government."

Hariri granted Hezbollah control of one of the government's six ministries after facing pressure from the militant group and the World Bank, which had threatened to redirect $11 billion in loans and grants if Beirut didn't finalize its government after an 8-month conflict.

The United States said it was willing to work with Hariri's new government, but warned against the inclusion of Hezbollah.

"We are concerned that Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, will continue to occupy ministerial positions and was allowed to name the minister of public health," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. "We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hezbollah."

Lebanon's health ministry control's the country's fourth largest budget, giving it influence over several government institutions.

Netanyahu warned that Iran and Hezbollah are part of a "great change taking place in the Middle East."

"This is the rise of the aggressive theocracy in Iran that wants to conquer the Middle East, destroy Israel, and rule many other parts of the world," he told the U.N. ambassadors.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin emphasized to the ambassadors that the U.N. is "the most important international forum" for Israel and the world, adding that "some U.N. bodies take unfair decisions about Israel. Double standards and discrimination must not detract from the U.N.'s important work."

"Change is in your hands," said Rivlin. "Please ensure that our good bilateral relations are also how you relate to Israel at the U.N."
 

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