US blocks assets of Lebanon's Manar, linked groups

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WASHINGTON, Mar 23 (Reuters) The US Treasury on Thursday froze the assets of al-Manar satellite television, the mouthpiece of Lebanon's Hizbollah anti-Israel guerrillas, which the State Department calls a terrorist organization.

The Treasury also blocked any US assets of al-Nour Radio and Lebanese Media Group, which it said was the parent company of al-Manar and al-Nour. It said both media outlets had facilitated Hizbollah's activities, including by supporting fund raising and recruitment.

The Treasury's action prohibits transactions between Americans and the designated groups in addition to freezing any assets they may have under US jurisdiction.

''Any entity maintained by a terrorist group -- whether masquerading as a charity, a business, or a media outlet -- is as culpable as the terrorist group itself,'' Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

A Treasury statement said al-Manar had also provided support to Palestinian groups defined as ''terrorist'' by the US government, including by transferring tens of millions of dollars to a charity linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The US State Department placed al-Manar on its ''Terrorist Exclusion List'' in December 2004, which meant foreigners providing support to or associated with the organization could be prevented from entering the United States or be deported.

Lebanese officials called that designation unacceptable censorship and an attack on freedom of speech. There was no immediate response from Lebanon to today's move.

The United States considers Hizbollah a ''foreign terrorist organization.'' The long-standing designation as a ''foreign terrorist organization'' has broader legal ramifications, such as a ban on material support by anyone in the United States, including money and lodging. U.S. financial institutions must also block funds of such organizations and their agents.

Reuters DH VP0130

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