Lebanon News

Profile of former Minister Mohammad Shatah

File photo of former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Mohammad Shatah, 62, who was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in Downtown Beirut Friday, was an economist holding senior positions both at home and abroad and a voice of moderation in the Future Movement, the party founded by assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

A prominent economist, Shatah's first post as a Lebanese government official was vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon from 1993 until 1997.

He later served as finance minister in 2007-2008 and as Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States from 1997 to 2000.

He also served as senior adviser to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora from August 2005 to July 2008 and later to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri since August 2009.

Prior to that, Shatah worked for the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. from 1983 until 2005 and held several positions including advisor on external communication as well as alternate executive director for the Middle East.

Shatah's resignation from the IMF in 2005 coincided with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. That was when he returned to Lebanon to serve as Siniora’s adviser.

An active member of social media in the country, the veteran diplomat maintained an online blog where he used to post political commentary. His recent post titled “Five facts and a conclusion” focused on the war in Syria.

“If Iran's militant ideology and hegemonic ambitions and radical 'Islamic' terrorism are the two strategic threats that need to be overcome, then the policy towards Syria should aim at bringing to a quick end both the devastating war and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's rule,” Shatah wrote in his blog.

“Humanitarian considerations aside, any policy that is based on the premise that a protracted conflict in Syria is costless is misguided and dangerous. It is exactly what Iran wants and it will help the scourge of terrorism to thrive,” he added.

Shatah made his last tweet shortly before his assassination, accusing Hezbollah of trying to exercise similar practices to that of the Syrian regime during its hegemony over Lebanon.

“Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security and foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 years,” he tweeted minutes prior to his killing.

Shatah’s killing is the most recent among a series of assassinations that targeted anti-Syrian figures since 2004.

In Sep. 2012, Shatah commented in a speech he gave during a weeklong visit to Washington on the latest turmoil in the region, saying his group was focusing on protecting Lebanon from being manipulated by foreign countries as the region undergoes a period of transition.

“As an opposition, our current focus is to prevent Lebanon from being used again as a convenient theater by the Syrian and Iranian regimes or by any other party for that matter, at an enormous cost to the Lebanese people.”

He graduated with a BA in Economics from the American University of Beirut and then continued his studies in the United States and graduated in 1983 with a PhD in Economics from the University of Texas.

Shatah, a husband and father of two, hailed from the northern city of Tripoli.





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