News ID: 274394
Published: 0202 GMT September 19, 2020

France rejects US claims, says no evidence of Hezbollah explosive stores

France rejects US claims, says no evidence of Hezbollah explosive stores

France's Foreign Ministry said there was no evidence to suggest Lebanon's Hezbollah was storing chemicals to make explosives in France after a senior US official said the resistance group had set up caches in Europe since 2012.

Speaking on Thursday, Nathan Sales, the US State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, accused Hezbollah of smuggling and storing chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, Reuters wrote.

"It stores these weapons in places so it can conduct major terrorist attacks whenever its masters in Tehran deem necessary," Sales said in a briefing without elaborating or providing evidence of the activities.

Sales said the chemicals had been smuggled into Europe in first-aid kits and were possibly in Spain, Greece and Italy.

"To our knowledge, there is nothing tangible to confirm such an allegation in France today," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in response to Sales' allegations.

"Any illegal activity committed by a foreign organization on our territory would be sanctioned by the French authorities with the greatest firmness," von der Muhll said.

Ammonium nitrate is an industrial chemical commonly used in fertilizers and as an explosive used for quarrying and mining. It is considered relatively safe if uncontaminated and stored properly.

It is extremely dangerous if contaminated, mixed with fuel or stored unsafely, as was seen at the Beirut port in August after 2,750-tons of it exploded, destroying the port and killing at least 190 people.

Unlike the United States, which has designated the powerful Hezbollah movement as a terrorist group since 1997, France has said its elected arm has a legitimate political role.

France is spearheading efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after the country plunged into its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

French officials argue that ostracizing Hezbollah would make efforts to resolve the crisis impossible.




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