France to restrict suspect Lebanese officials from entering

French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian

PARIS (AP) — France will restrict Lebanese officials suspected of corruption or obstructing the formation of a government from entering the country, the foreign minister said Thursday.

The move is the latest French effort to pressure Lebanese leaders to end a dangerous political deadlock that has accelerated the Mideast country’s economic collapse.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his government “has started to put in place measures restricting access to French territory for people implicated in the political blockage under way, or implicated in corruption” in Lebanon.

He did not name any of those targeted or say how many. The Foreign Ministry did not release details of what the restrictions entail.

The move stops short of sanctions for now, but Le Drian said more could come later. 

“We reserve the possibility to adopt additional measures toward all those who are hindering a solution to the crisis,” he said.

Lebanon is experiencing the worst economic and financial crisis of its modern history. The local currency has lost 85% of its value to the dollar in recent months and businesses have shut down while banks imposed informal controls on transfers and withdrawals.

The economic crisis was made worse by a massive explosion at Beirut’s port last summer, which destroyed the facility and surrounding neighborhoods. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab stepped down in the wake of the explosion, and former premier Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new one.

Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet amid deep disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun, who has no legal recourse to fire him.

Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a road map to break the political stalemate in the former French protectorate. Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists that can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from a financial crisis worsened by the Aug. 4 explosion that devastated much of Beirut.

Those efforts have led nowhere as Lebanon’s politicians continue to bicker about the shape and size of a new Cabinet and who chooses which ministers.