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By Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday imposed financial sanctions on four men it said were leaders of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, accusing them of trying to spread terrorism in the Middle East, including Syria, Egypt and Yemen.
The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group and has sought to convince allies to adopt the same label, in part by highlighting what it says are illegal or destabilizing actions carried out by the group beyond Lebanon's borders.
One of the four men, Khalil Harb, planned attacks in Israel and neighboring countries, the Treasury Department said in a statement. Last year Harb started channeling money to Yemen, including a $50,000 monthly payment to a Yemeni political party, it said, but it did not say which party.
Treasury said another man, Muhammad Kawtharani, funded armed groups in Iraq and helped transport Iraqi fighters to Syria to join President Bashar Al-Assad's effort to halt the two-year-old revolt against his rule.
The other two men, Muhammad Yusuf Ahmad Mansur and Muhammad Qabalan, were accused of leading attacks against tourists in Egypt as part of a Hezbollah cell.
Hezbollah's intervention in Syria helped spur the European Union last month to put the armed wing of the group on its terrorist blacklist.
The Treasury move on Thursday, although largely symbolic, effectively cut the four men off from the U.S. financial system and any dealings with U.S. citizens.
David Cohen, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said U.S. sanctions could also encourage foreign banks, including those in Lebanon, to stop dealing with the men.
"By laying out in detail the activities of these Hezbollah leaders, we have exposed for the entire world to see ... what Hezbollah really is all about, which is exporting terrorist activity in a number of jurisdictions around the world," Cohen told reporters.
He said further information could also prompt U.S. partners in the European Union and Gulf countries to further restrict Hezbollah's activities and funding.
In prior actions, the Treasury also sanctioned what it said were Hezbollah's money laundering and drug trafficking in West Africa, and accused the group of carrying out terror attacks in places like Bulgaria and Thailand.
With a military force that rivals the Lebanese army, Shi'ite Hezbollah has used a mixture of political power and force since the end of Lebanon's 15-year civil war in 1990 to pursue its goals - officially defending the country from neighbor Israel.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by David Storey)