BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah on Sunday dismissed the prospect of tougher U.S. sanctions against his group, which is backed by Iran, and said the U.S. administration had no way to harm it.
"The American administration, with all available and possible means, will not be able to damage the strength of the resistance," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address to mark the anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel.
Nasrallah said Lebanon was being subjected to intimidation and threats over Hezbollah - which is part of the Beirut government but classified as a terrorist group by Washington - and alleged that Lebanese officials had been told that Israel could launch a war.
European and American officials had warned them "during diplomatic meetings and international visits ... if you don't do this, Israel will launch a war on Lebanon, and if Hezbollah doesn't do this, Israel will launch a war on Lebanon", Nasrallah said. He did not spell out what had been asked of Lebanon or Hezbollah.
Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah, a well armed Shi'ite movement, have risen this year. Nasrallah has played down the prospect of a war while simultaneously warning Israel against a conflict.
Trump last month called Hezbollah a "menace" to the Lebanese people and to the entire region during a news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.
U.S. lawmakers last month introduced legislation seeking to increase sanctions on Hezbollah by further restricting its ability to raise money and recruit and by increasing pressure on banks that do business with it, though it was not clear when or if it would come to a vote.
Officials in Lebanon have raised concerns that any widening of the U.S. sanctions could damage their banking industry.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)