Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah criticized on Friday a United States plan to increase military assistance to Middle Eastern countries, accusing Washington of seeking to drown the Middle East in wars.

Nasrallah was referring to a proposed U.S. plan announced earlier this week to sell advanced weaponry worth at least $20 billion to Persian Gulf nations and provide new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt.

"The United States is bringing billions of dollars worth of arms to ignite wars in this region," Nasrallah said in a speech beamed through giant television screens to hundreds of thousands of supporters in eastern Lebanon's city of Baalbek. "The American administration is working on instigating sectarian strife and civil wars in Palestine, Iraq, the Gulf and ... between the countries of this region."

The increased aid is believed to be part of U.S. plans to strengthen Mideast allies it deems to be moderate, largely as a counterweight to the growing influence of Iran - one of Hezbollah's main backers, along with Syria.

The Sunni-led governments of the Middle East are also wary of Shiite Iran's growing power.

Nasrallah, whose speech was part of a series of events planned by the group to mark the anniversary of last year's war between Hezbollah and Israel, ridiculed U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement Thursday that the U.S. will freeze the assets of people deemed to be undermining Lebanon's democratic government.

The Hezbollah-led opposition in Lebanon has been locked in a fierce power struggle with the U.S.-backed government of Fuad Siniora. The opposition's main demand has been the formation of a national unity Cabinet that would give the opposition veto power. Siniora, backed by the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority and the U.S., rejects the opposition's demand.

Syria had significant control over Lebanon before its troops were forced to leave in 2005 because of international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Many in Lebanon believe Syria was behind the killing - a charge Syria denies.

Bush's executive order targets anyone found to be helping Syria assert control in Lebanon or otherwise undermine the rule of law.

Nasrallah said the U.S. was using its entire legal, financial and economic means to terrorize frighten and encircle the opposition in Lebanon.

But all this will not lead them anywhere, he concluded.

Ahmadinejad: U.S.-Mideast arms deal attempt to dominate region

Iran's president also criticized the U.S. on Friday saying Washington was trying to impose its dominance on the Middle East, the president's office reported.

"All U.S. efforts are for the creation of differences among our brothers in the region to impose its ideas and hegemony," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on his office's official Web site. "Americans feel their relations with regional [Mideast] countries are weakened, and under cover of this, the arms deal, they want to make relations warm."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice visited its allies in the Middle East this week to discuss the proposed military package, seen as a counterweight to Iran's rising influence in the region.

The Iranian president also criticized U.S. support for Israel and Washington's efforts to promote Arab-Israeli peace.

"The U.S. plans to introduce Israel as a friend of the regional [Arab] countries," said Ahmadinejad. "Instead, they want to portray the Iranian nation, brother and best friend of Arab nations, as their enemy," he added.

The U.S. accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Shiite militias in Iraq, charges Tehran denies.

The Sunni-led governments of the Middle East are also wary of Shiite Iran's growing power, and Israel views the country as its principal enemy. The U.S. hopes to capitalize on this fear to rally support for its efforts to isolate Iran.