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Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh

Reacting to the explosion that rocked central Beirut Sunday  night that targeted the headquarters of Blom Bank, one to the largest Lebanese banks , Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh was quoted by Al Mustaqbal as saying :

 

“Business will go on as usual . We will continue to do what we have been doing , because in any case we have to implement what should be implemented and should continue in the same direction  we have  taken and are certain that such a move will strengthen the monetary situation  in Lebanon.

Several Lebanese leaders and parties condemned the explosion  with the exception of the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group.

Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt   suggested that there is a link between the explosion   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.

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.”

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 in  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  concerned 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.

Explosion preceded by threats from Tehran

The bank explosion was preceded  two hours earlier by a threat from Tehran in which Pars news Agency quoted Hezbollah officials threatening another May 7,2008  type attack if the Central  bank will implement the US law against the party .

It was not reportedly  difficult for the banking sources to point their fingers at Hezbollah but the sources insist that these type of acts will not help Hezbollah in any shape or form  because there is no way around compliance with the US sanctions .

Blom Bank is one of the banks that has closed accounts belonging to people suspected of links to Hezbollah.

According to observers compliance with the US sanctions is an existential issue for Lebanon and the banking sector

Suspects arrested

Two suspects were arrested and are being interrogated according to local Lebanese media reports.

“The two suspects were close to the bombing scene and they are still being interrogated,” al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing security information it has obtained.

The bomb was activated by  a timer that was directly connected to it.

“Sources close to the investigation have voiced confidence about the possibility of identifying the party that plotted the bomb attack and arresting the culprits who acted on the ground,” al-Liwaa added.

According to the reports a tree near the bomb location prevented the security camera from taking good pictures of the suspects.

The bomb reportedly contained 5 kg ( 11 lb) of highly  explosive  TNT

 

 

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