US willing to offer Lebanon exemptions from Caesar act: Ambassador Shea

US Ambassador Dorothy Shea with Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri

US Ambassador Dorothy Shea to Beirut has told Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri that Washington does not intend to punish Lebanon, but would respond to the list of exemptions from the Caesar Act that the government of Hassan Diab is requesting, parliamentary sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

US Ambassador Dorothy Shea with Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri

The act, which came into force last month and aims to economically isolate Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria through sanctions, has raised questions about its possible effect on Lebanon.

The sources said Berri dispatched his political aide Ali Hassan Khalil to meet with Prime Minister Hassan Diab and inquire about the delay in presenting the request on exemptions.

They said Shea also informed Berri in their last meeting about Washington’s intent to resume its mediation role between Lebanon and Israel on border demarcation.

On Friday, the US Ambassador held a lengthy meeting with Diab without making a statement.

European sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that EU ambassadors and Shea are holding talks with Lebanese officials to pressure them to swiftly enact economic and administrative reforms to save the country from collapse.

French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher is also preparing for the visit of Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Beirut.

The FM has recently called on the Lebanese government to help itself if it wants French assistance.

Sources said that most political leaders, who have lately met with Foucher, have asked Paris to exert pressure on President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law MP Gebran Bassil to reconsider their behavior.

The officials believe that the intransigence of Aoun and Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement, has obstructed the implementation of the reforms that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is calling for.

Lebanon began talks with the IMF in May, hoping to secure aid to tackle its financial crisis.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that Bassil turned against an agreement reached with Berri regarding the appointment of an electricity regulatory authority, without amending its powers.

Also, European sources said Aoun made no efforts to convince Hezbollah to dissociate Lebanon from regional conflicts.

“This is the first time in several years that the EU and US agree on a mechanism to save Lebanon,” the sources said.

Asharq Al-Awsat