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Lebanon's al-Manar TV shrugs off U.S. asset freeze

By Staff
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BEIRUT, Mar 24 (Reuters) A Lebanese television station belonging to the anti-Israeli Hizbollah guerrillas today shrugged off a U.S.

freeze on its assets and said it could still beam its programmes to U S homes.

The U S Treasury froze the assets of al-Manar satellite television, al-Nour Radio and their parent company, the Lebanese Media Group, yesterday, saying they facilitated the activities of Hizbollah, which the U S State Department considers a terrorist organisation.

The Treasury's action bans transactions between Americans and groups designated as terrorist in addition to freezing any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

''We consider this an assault on an objective and professional media group. It is politically motivated and we have information that the Zionist lobby in the United States is behind it,'' Manar General Manager Abdullah Qassir told Reuters.

''Manar is the victim of this but we will not react because we can overcome such decisions and broadcast to the world. Manar is now watched in America and Canada and all over the world.'' The State Department placed Manar on its ''terrorist exclusion list'' in December 2004, which meant foreigners providing support to or associated with the organisation could be prevented from entering the United States or be deported.

Lebanese officials have called that designation unacceptable censorship and an attack on freedom of speech.

The Treasury statement released on Thursday said Manar supported fund-raising and recruitment activities by Hizbollah, a Shi'ite Muslim group backed by Syria and Iran, themselves fixtures on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

It also said Manar supported Palestinian groups classified as terrorist by the U.S. government and had transferred tens of millions of dollars to a charity linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has carried out suicide attacks on Israel.

Hizbollah's long-standing designation as a ''foreign terrorist organisation'' has broader legal ramifications, including a ban on material support by anyone in the United States, including money and lodging.

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