The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Hariri aims to curb sanc­tions im­pact

Premier in­tro­duces re­gional fo­cus meet­ings to ad­dress needs of cit­i­zens

- European Politics · Politics · Beirut · Lebanon · United States of America · Hezbollah · Saad Hariri · Congress of the United States · United States Congress · Michel Aoun · Baabda · Washington · United States Senate · Deputy · World Bank · Australian House of Representatives · Amal Movement

BEIRUT: Le­banon will work with U.S. au­thor­i­ties in a bid to min­i­mize the im­pact of new sanc­tions be­ing drafted to tar­get Hezbol­lah fi­nanc­ing and its sus­pected af­fil­i­ates, Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri said Thurs­day.

“There’s a new bill be­ing pre­pared by the U.S. Congress and we should have a team work­ing on ex­plain­ing our ef­forts in com­bat­ing money laun­der­ing and other [il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties],” Hariri told re­porters after a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace.

“The [im­ple­men­ta­tion] of the bill will be harsh on Le­banon,” he said, adding that Beirut would work with Wash­ing­ton to “change [the bill].”

A num­ber of mem­bers of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have pre­pared the draft “Hezbol­lah In­ter­na­tional Fi­nanc­ing Preven­tion Amend­ments Act of 2017” – that aims to cut off all forms of fi­nan­cial sup­port to the party, which Wash­ing­ton deems a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The new draft, which has not yet been in­tro­duced in the House, has reportedly added ad­di­tional en­ti­ties, such as the Amal Move­ment, to the list of al­ready sanc­tioned par­ties.

A sim­i­lar draft is said to be mak­ing the rounds in the Se­nate.

A high-rank­ing Le­banese po­lit­i­cal and bank­ing del­e­ga­tion is set to travel to Wash­ing­ton in May in a bid to ne­go­ti­ate with U.S. au­thor­i­ties re­gard­ing the mea­sures. Sources told The Daily Star Mon­day that the del­e­ga­tion may in­clude min­is­ters and MPs as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Banks in Le­banon.

The prime min­is­ter also chaired a meet­ing Thurs­day at the Grand Serail with a del­e­ga­tion from north Le­banon mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“You rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal move­ments, but what is im­por­tant is the ci­ti­zen who lives in this mu­nic­i­pal­ity, know­ing that in the end, the state will ben­e­fit from con­sol­i­dat­ing its pres­ence through the de­vel­op­ment projects that will be im­ple­mented,” Hariri told the del­e­ga­tion.

“What is re­quired to­day is to set pri­or­i­ties and de­velop a road map to im­ple­ment all the projects that must be com­ple­men­tary to each other.”

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Health Min­is­ter Ghas­san Has­bani at­tended Thurs­day’s meet­ing, as did rep­re­sen­ta­tives of other min­is­ters, in­clud­ing those of Pres­i­dent Aoun.

Among the items on the agenda were real es­tate, health care, sewage, fish­ing ports, pub­lic schools and light­ing, pub­lic trans­porta­tion and the pro­tec­tion of her­itage sites and na­ture re­serves.

“Our goal is to pro­vide cit­i­zens with ser­vices that they need, es­pe­cially those in the north who have been re­quir­ing them for a long time,” Hariri said.

The prime min­is­ter re­vealed that this was the first of a series of meet­ings that will fo­cus on spe­cific re­gions in or­der to pre­pare the ground­work for dis­cussing de­vel­op­ment mat­ters in Cab­i­net.

“The aim of these suc­ces­sive meet­ings, each ded­i­cated to a gover­norate in Le­banon, is to pre­pare for Cab­i­net meet­ings that will be held in the re­gions,” he said.

Hariri added that the next meet­ing would take place with east Le­banon mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from the Bekaa re­gion.

Has­bani also met pri­vately with Hariri at the Grand Serail.

“I briefed Prime Min­is­ter Hariri on the re­sults of my visit to Wash­ing­ton, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing the health sec­tor and its $150 mil­lion [World Bank] fund­ing,” Has­bani said.

He added that he had dis­cussed the elec­tric­ity plan with the premier.

“I also dis­cussed ... al­ter­na­tives that could be added to the spec­i­fi­ca­tions to in­crease the trans­parency and the abil­ity of this [elec­tric­ity] project to re­duce the cost on the Le­banese state and to re­store elec­tric­ity quicker than ex­pected,” he said.

In March the Cab­i­net ap­proved a plan to rent two Turk­ish elec­tric­ity pro­duc­ing ships that would al­legedly pro­vide seven ad­di­tional hours of elec­tric­ity a day.

Some ar­eas in Le­banon re­ceive as lit­tle as 12 hours of elec­tric­ity per day.

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