After US claims, France says no evidence of Hezbollah explosives stores

PARIS: France's foreign ministry on Friday (Sep 18) said there was no evidence to suggest the armed wing of Lebanon's Hezbollah was storing chemicals to make explosives in France after a senior US official said the group had set up caches in Europe since 2012.

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

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"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.

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

READ: State of collapse: Can Lebanon's troubled leadership save the country?

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

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"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.

Unlike the United States, which has designated the heavily armed and politically 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 decades of corrupt rule that has led to its deepestRead More – Source