U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser stressed that his country is keen on Lebanon’s stability, assuring that the U.S. sanctions law only targets Hezbollah, As Safir newspaper reported on Friday.
“There is no random or discretionary application of the U.S. law, and there are no intentions to target a specific Lebanese group. We have announced that the aim of the law is to fight Hezbollah. We are not visiting the country to negotiate the law with Lebanese delegations, but to discuss the ways of its implementation,” As Safir quoted Glaser during his visit to Lebanon.
As Safir added that the U.S. official reiterated his country’s keenness on Lebanon’s stability at the political, security, economic and banking levels. He assured that it supports Lebanon’s military and security institutions in their fight against terrorism and urges for the election of a Lebanese president.
Glaser denied reports claiming that the law aims to target everyone who deals with Hezbollah, stressing that it is confined to the party as an entity, members and leaders.
He said: “At the same time, we are interested in checking the volume of financial transactions, their value and destination.”
Glaser stressed that his country “respects the Lebanese financial laws” and that the government must similarly respect the laws of the United States as long as it wants to do business with the U.S. banking and financial system.
According to As Safir, the first day of talks of Glaser highlighted that the U.S. war against Hezbollah is ongoing and escalating, but this time taking economic and financial shapes.
The U.S. official met with PM Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail and is set to meet Speaker Nabih Berri.
On Thursday he met with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil
The U.S. regulations say Washington will target those “knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for” Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
The U.S. Treasury issued a list of 99 names of individuals and firms linked to Hezbollah, which Washington labels as a terrorist organization.The list includes Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah , al-Manar TV and al-Nour Radio.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh had said that the bank will abide by the restrictions in the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which was signed into law in December.
Hezbollah condemns move
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said on May 13 that U.S. sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with the militant group could threaten Lebanon’s financial sector, hinting that supporters may withdraw their money from local banks.
The bloc criticized the central bank for saying it would abide by a U.S. law that came into effect last month and which the Hezbollah lawmakers said violates Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The statement came after a Cabinet meeting in which officials discussed a decision by banks to shut down the accounts of at least two Hezbollah lawmakers, an official who attended the meeting told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the meeting with the media.
Lebanon’s al Jamhouriyet newspaper reported that the 2 Hezbollah MPs whose accounts were canceled are Ali Fayad and Nawwar al Sahili. In addition the account of former MP Amin Sharri’s daughter was also canceled.
Banks need approval
The Special Investigation Commission issued a decision Thursday prohibiting banks from freezing any account without the prior approval of the financial authorities.
“Banks, financial institutions and brokerage firms are requested not to close any account of any of its customers, or refrain from dealing with him, or refuse to open an account before 30 days of notifying the Special Investigation Commission. The notification must explain the reasons behind these measures such as information about the client and the movement and size of the account,” SIC said in the statement
It added that in case no response came from the commission in 30 days then the banks and financial institutions can take the appropriate actions on these accounts.
But the SIC stressed that banks can freeze the accounts and transactions of individuals and companies that are blacklisted by the U.S. authorities.