Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt suggested that there is a link between the explosion that rocked central Beirut last night that targeted the headquarters of Blom Bank, one to the largest Lebanese banks and a growing row between Hezbollah and the central bank governor over the implementation of U.S. financial sanctions against the party.
“The objective of the bombing in Beirut is to deal a blow to the economy and the banking system and I had called for a calm dialogue about the U.S. sanctions,” Jumblatt told An Nahar newspaper shortly after the explosion.
“Some parties do not want dialogue over the issue of the U.S. sanctions and we most preserve the baking sector and its coherence,” he stressed.
In another interview he told LBCI television that “we might be facing a wave of bombings,” urging an end to verbal attacks against Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and “a roadmap between Hezbollah and the banks.”
And in another interview with al-Jadeed TV, Jumblatt warned that “Israel is the party that benefits the most from the destruction of the Lebanese economy.”
“What’s important is to cease the uncalculated statements about the issue of sanctions,” he said.
The evening blast resulted in the wounding of two people and caused extensive damage to BLOM Bank’s glass facade and cars parked in the area.
Earlier in the day Jumblatt urged in a tweet “smart approach” regarding the implementation of the anti-Hizbullah sanctions.
“If I had to voice an opinion as an observer, seeing as I’m not an expert in the banking and financial issues, I would stress the need for ending the public exchange of tirades in newspaper and in the media and for halting the verbal attacks against the central bank governor,” Jumblat tweeted.
“Because the confrontation today is targeted against Hezbollah, its supporters and Lebanon – entire Lebanon,” he added.
The issue today is about how to alleviate the impact of the sanctions as much as possible and how to deal with the issue smartly in order to protect the banking sector,” Jumblatt went on to say.
He also warned that “any mistake would be intolerable in this regard, seeing as we are likely to face further economic adversity.”
Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc attacked Salameh on Thursday, noting that his remarks about the suspension of 100 Hezbollah-linked bank accounts reflect an inclination to renounce “national sovereignty.”
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Salameh had announced that one hundred bank accounts related to Hezbollah had been frozen in accordance with a U.S. law that threatens to sanction anyone who finances the group.
“The central bank is determined to maintain the country’s financial stability, and make sure that the U.S. law is implemented,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act on December 18.
Despite Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s assurances in December that his party had nothing to fear from the new American sanctions targeting the organization because it had “no money in Lebanese banks,” the implementation of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 has conspicuously roused the party’s ire since it came into effect on May 3.
Lebanon has witnessed a rare standoff between Hezbollah and Central Bank chief whose longstanding ability to juggle safeguarding Lebanon’s international economic legitimacy with maintaining a working relationship with a US-designated “Foreign Terrorist Organization” has been put to the test.
Many in Lebanon are extremely that the U.S. legislation will have negative effects on the Lebanese banking sector, which is one of the most active industries in the country.
“Our priority is to keep Lebanon on the international financial map,” said Salameh.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned Monday in a tweet :”Banking sector in Lebanon is the cornerstone of the Lebanese economy and it is unacceptable to expose it to any dangers for anybody’s sake, ” National News Agency ( NNA) reported
Geagea, who was referring to the explosion that rocked central Beirut last night that targeted the headquarters of Blom Bank , added: “We are still waiting for the security apparatuses preliminary investigations due to the delicacy and fragility of this issue.”
Geagea urged Lebanon Central Bank, the Banks’ Association and the banks to take all the needed measures to keep the banking sector in Lebanon acceptable and within the international banking group.
Geagea concluded “Today, we all support the banking sector against the various challenges which it is confronting.”
In a related development BLOM bank said in a statement: “Our bank represents all the components of the Lebanese society. We will continue to offer our services to our customers.”
The Association of Bank in Lebanon met earlier today and issued a statement at the end of the meeting warning : “The blast aims to destabilize the economic sector.”