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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 22:36 GMT
Iran 'sending funds to Hezbollah'
By James Whittington
BBC News, Beirut

Lebanese finance minister, Jihad Azour
Mr Azour says Iran agreed to direct money through the government
A senior Hezbollah official has told the BBC that Iran is providing the group with money to help fund its reconstruction activities in Lebanon.

Kassam Allaik said Iran also had its own groups in Lebanon, rebuilding bridges, roads and mosques.

Lebanon's Finance Minister, Jihad Azour, also acknowledged that Iranian money is going directly to Hezbollah.

Mr Azour said that he is trying to persuade Iran to finance the relief effort through the government.

Since the end of the conflict with Israel, Hezbollah has shifted focus from fighting to reconstruction.

It has paid lump sums of cash to the 15,000 or so households which lost their homes in the fighting and it has organised teams of engineers to help with the rebuilding.

'Direct transfer'

Mr Allaik, the head of Hezbollah's construction arm - Jihad Construction - has admitted that Iran is providing funds directly to Hezbollah to help the reconstruction effort.

He said that Iran also has its own groups in Lebanon rebuilding bridges, roads, mosques and schools

Kassem Allaik, head of Jihad Construction
Kassem Allaik is in charge of Hezbollah's construction arm

Mr Azour has said that he has been in talks with Iranian officials who had promised to direct funds through the Lebanese government but so far no money has been received.

"Iran is officially providing assistance to Hezbollah, but the reconstruction is done by the government," Mr Azour said.

"The government repaired electricity, repaired telecommunication, repaired the roads, repaired the water. And the government is compensating for the loss of houses," he said.

"Therefore what Iran is giving is a direct transfer to a political party, not to Lebanon as a country, as a state, if you want."

Tensions are growing between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah in the aftermath of the conflict with Israel.

Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has threatened to organise street protests later this month to push for a government of national unity in a bid to increase his influence.

And the issue of funding for reconstruction is a sensitive one, especially as many people in southern Beirut and the south of Lebanon have been crediting Hezbollah rather than the Lebanese government for the rebuilding so far.

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