Top Saudi cleric urges moves against Hezbollah

Saudi Arabia's top cleric urged governments and fellow clerics across the Muslim world to punish Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah for its intervention in the Syrian civil war against the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Shaikh said Hezbollah's actions vindicated the Sunni-dominated kingdom's long suspicion of the group and its alliance with Shiite Iran.

"We urge all politicians and clerics to take substantial measures against this repulsive sectarian group (Hezbollah) and all those backing it," Shaikh said in a speech carried by the official SPA news agency.

Shaikh welcomed an about-turn last month by influential Qatar-based Sunni cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had previously backed Hezbollah, particularly after its 2006 war with Israel.

Qaradawi "has returned to the stance taken by the kingdom's top scholars and which was clear on this sectarian repulsive movement ever since it was created," Shaikh said.

"We support" Qaradawi in his stance and call on "all clerics of the Muslim world to stick together and cooperate during this critical moment in history," he added.

In last month's speech, Qaradawi, who has millions of supporters around the Arab world, particularly in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, said he had been at fault for previously backing Hezbollah and urged Sunni volunteers to join the Syrian rebels.

Hezbollah fighters spearheaded a devastating 17-day assault on the Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border which culminated on Wednesday with its recapture from the rebels.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council -- of which Saudi Arabia is the key member -- warned on Sunday that it could take measures against Hezbollah.

One GCC member, Bahrain, has already ordered steps against the group.