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LEBANON CENTRAL BANKAt 1:55 pm local time, a Lebanese young man arrives at the entrance of one of the country’s largest banks, asking to enter to withdraw money. However, the security officer apologizes from letting him in, asking that he returns next Tuesday.

The man gets angry and began to scream, knowing that it was illegal to close banks at this hour of the day as Lebanese banks normally close at 5pm.

The reduction of the working time is part of measures taken by banks to decrease the pressure on cash withdrawals.

Banks will remain closed until next Tuesday morning to control the high turnout of customers that want to withdraw their money amid rumors speaking of a quick collapse of the economy.

Informed political sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that those measures were “illegal,” however, they are exceptional and temporary to deal with the crisis.

“Those measures were taken upon the request of the Central Bank. They are not in the form of a circular, which is usually written and requires an amendment of the Code of Currency and Credit,” the sources said.

The measures introduced at the banking sector, change every couple of days in light of customers’ high demand on cash.

A retired general told Asharq Al-Awsat the bank refused to give him $5,000 from his account on Friday.

A real estate dealer said he was unable to withdraw $20,000 from his bank account and had to write a check in the same amount and to cash in at an exchange firm by paying commission.

The new list of procedures imposed on clients in an effort to protect the banking sector, reflected confusion at local banks.

Bashir, a merchant of imported construction materials said that companies that import such supplies informed him that he could not pay his invoices by checks anymore, but only in cash and in dollar.

Banks also placed a ceiling on cash withdrawals outside Lebanon and they enforced new measures to prevent transfers from local banks to outside the country in the coming period.

The bank rush in Lebanon prompted the Union of Bank employees to call for closing banks until a legislation is enacted to regulate the relationship between bank employees and depositors . Many bank employees were reportedly subjected to insults , attacks and  bullying by customers  who recently tried to withdraw funds from their accounts.

Protests are continuing for the 23rd day, as demonstrators call for major changes to the political system.

Asharq Al-Awsat/YL

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