Hariri Calls for Protection of Lebanese Banks from Repercussions of Sanctions against Hezbollah
Beirut- Prime Minister Saad Hariri has met with House Speaker Paul Ryan at his office in Capitol Hill, calling for the protection of banks in Lebanon as a draft US Congress bill aims to tighten regulations on Hezbollah’s finances.
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Charge d’affaires of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington Carla Jazzar, Hariri’s Chief of Staff Nader Hariri, his advisor for US Affairs ambassador Amal Mudallali and US National Security Advisor Jeff Dressler attended Thursday’s meeting.
Hariri later said: “The meeting with the US Speaker was very good. We invited him to visit Lebanon to see the efforts we are exerting to fight terrorism, and to get informed about the humanitarian situation of the refugees.”
“Our whole focus during this visit is on the refugees and security. Here in Congress we are discussing the decisions being prepared against Lebanon. We are discussing ways to protect Lebanon from these sanctions and we hope to convince them,” he added.
Asked if there was any possibility to change these decisions or proposed draft laws against Hezbollah, Hariri said: “Our duty is to protect Lebanon. Hezbollah is already on the terrorism list in the United States and we have to protect the Lebanese banks and the Lebanese people from any broad decision that affects the people who have bank accounts because this will affect the Lebanese economy.”
On the US position from Hezbollah, the premier said: “You heard from the President of the United States the stance regarding Hezbollah. We have to protect Lebanon from any repercussions. What is important for me is to protect the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people and maintain the aid to the Lebanese Army which was very useful in fighting terrorism. We have to focus on this issue. As for Hezbollah, the American position is known and not new.”
Hariri also talked about the situation in the eastern border town of Arsal, saying “We want for what is happening in Arsal to end, and I think that no one in the Lebanese state wants to have any kind of terrorism in Arsal’s outskirts. The best way is for them to return to their country.”
The PM spoke as a ceasefire deal was reached that will see militants withdraw from the Syria-Lebanon border on Arsal’s outskirts, after a week-long operation there by Hezbollah.
One reporter Asked Hariri if he was confident about the coming period particularly regarding the American stance. The PM replied: “I am reassured and they will hopefully continue with us this path and the work we are doing.”
Hariri and the accompanying delegation later visited Congressman Darrel Issa at his office. The meeting was attended by the members of the House US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus.
“These sanctions will severely limit ‘Hezbollah’s’ financial network and transnational criminal activities, as well as crack down its backers, most importantly Iran,” Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
Versions of the bill were introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate, sponsored by Royce and Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senators Marco Rubio and Jeanne Shaheen, Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Officials in Lebanon have been worrying that US efforts to widen sanctions on “Hezbollah” could damage the country’s important banking industry. They visited Washington to lobby lawmakers in May.
But members of the US Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration want to weaken the power of Tehran and its allies. The Trump administration this week slapped new sanctions on Iran.