Hezbollah chief says has reduced fighters in Syria

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been fighting in Lebanon's neighbour Syria supporting the regime since 2013 (AFP Photo/-)

Beirut (AFP) - The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement Hassan Nasrallah said Friday he had decreased the number of fighters supporting the Damascus regime in neighbouring war-torn Syria.

"We are present in every area that we used to be. We are still there, but we don't need to be there in large numbers as long as there is no practical need," he said in an interview broadcast on Hezbollah's Al-Manar television.

The head of the Iran-backed Shiite movement, which has been fighting in Syria since 2013, did no quantify the extent of the reduction.

Backed by Russia and Iran, the Damascus government has taken back large swathes of territory from rebels and jihadists since 2015, and now controls around 60 percent of the country.

Nasrallah said none of his fighters were currently involved in fighting in Syria's northwestern region of Idlib, where regime and Russian forces have increased deadly bombardment on a jihadist-run bastion since late April.

He spoke after Washington announced fresh sanctions Tuesday against Hezbollah, targeting elected officials from the movement for the first time.

"All dealings with the Syria file has nothing to do with the sanctions or the financial austerity," he said.

Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the United States, and is the only faction not to have disarmed after the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war.

But it is also a major political player in the small Mediterranean country, taking 13 seats in parliament last year and securing three posts in the current cabinet.