Lebanon

    A Mideast version of the Bernie Madoff scandal is threatening to tarnish Hezbollah's reputation in Lebanon for being incorruptible, and the powerful Shiite militant movement faces calls to bail out small investors to keep its position from being undercut. Hundreds of Lebanese sold land or drained their retirement savings and handed over hundreds of millions of dollars to Salah Ezzedine, a Shiite businessman with connections to Hezbollah. For its Shiite followers it is seen as a trusted quasi-government that provides social services and aid. The group gets substantial funding from Iran and paid out millions to rebuild the Shiite heartland in south Lebanon after a devastating 2006 war with Israel. (AP)

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