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.