United States President Barack Obama Thursday extended a freeze on assets of persons threatening stability in Lebanon and targeting those seeking “to undermine Lebanon’s legitimate and democratically elected government.” The national unity government in which March 14 held the majority .
A White House statement, extending the freeze that was first imposed in 2007, said that “certain ongoing activities, such as continuing arms transfers to Hezbollah that include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems, serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty.”
The move comes amid tense relations between the U.S. and Syria, which has links to Hezbollah, considered a terrorist group by Washington.
Hezbollah was blamed for the fall of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government in January after the party and its March 8 allies resigned over a U.N. probe into the assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri.
On Aug. 2, 2007, President George W. Bush ordered a freeze on the U.S. assets of anyone Washington deems to be undermining Lebanon’s pro-Western government.
The Bush administration did not identify those targeted by the decree, but it came just a month after he imposed a U.S. travel ban on Syrian officials and Lebanese politicians whom the United States accused of fomenting instability in Lebanon.
The travel ban did not list individuals subject to the ban, but the White House released information that named 10 individuals who were suspected of being engaged in the type of activities Washington had been seeking to end.
They included top Syrian military intelligence officials, an adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and former Lebanese ministers and an MP.
The Syrians are Hisham Ikhtiyar, Jamaa Jamma, Rustom Ghazaleh and Asef Shawkat.
The Lebanese officials listed included former ministers Abdel-Rahim Mrad, Assad Hardan of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Assem Qanso of the Baath Party, Wiam Wahhab, Michel Samaha, and former MP Nasser Qandil.
Wahhab’s 5 year visa
Tawhid Arab Party leader Wiam Wahhab commented on Friday on US President Barak Obama’s extension of freeze of assets on persons threatening stability in Lebanon, targeting those seeking “to undermine Lebanon’s legitimate and democratically elected government.”
former minister Wiam Wahhab, one of the people targeted by the freeze , told Voice of Lebanon hat he is not “upset” by the decision.
“This decision is silly. It did not affect us in 2007, and will not affect us now.”
He also said that he has a 5 year visa to visit the US, and asked “What is this contradiction? They grant us permission to visit the US and then impose sanctions on us.”
Wahhab, a staunch ally of Hezbollah and Syria added that Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Minister of Foreign Affairs Adnan Mansour must address Obama’s decision.
“This is unacceptable because there is a violation against Lebanon’s sovereignty and an interference in our affairs. Let them tell us what the charges against us are. We did not commit murder, and we were not in militias but we dealt with politics.”
MP Jean Ogassapian said on Friday that the extension of freeze of assets on persons may negatively affect Mikati’s cabinet when it comes to Lebanon’s relations with the international community.