Lebanon News

US slaps sanctions on Khalil, Fenianos over Hezbollah ties

File- This combo of pictures shows former Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, left, and former Minister Youssef Fenianos. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir, Ahmad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The United States Tuesday blacklisted two former ministers, Ali Hassan Khalil and Youssef Fenianos, saying they provided material support to Hezbollah and engaged in corruption.

The Treasury Department imposed counterterrorism designations on former Finance Minister Khalil and former Public Works and Transportation Minister Fenianos.

“Political allies of Hezbollah should know they will be held accountable,” Schenker said on a call with media.

Both Fenianos and Khalil are affiliated with parties that are considered allies of Hezbollah.

When asked about future sanctions, Schenker said Lebanon should be expecting more sanctions.

“I hope we can a get a bunch more of these [sanctions] out there,” he said.

The Lebanese government “should be a government that is dedicated to fighting corruption,” Schenker said, adding, “We look forward to working with that government.”

Speaking on French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to Lebanon, Schenker said the US had differing views from France on Hezbollah. He said the US did not think anyone should be meeting with Hezbollah politicians, but added that “the French initiative has a lot of merit.”

A statement from the Treasury Department listed allegations against the Marada movement’s Fenianos, claiming that “In 2015, Hizballah gave Finyanus hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors.”

The statement added that Fenianos “engaged in corruption while in his position as Minister of Transportation and Public Works by diverting funds from the ministry to offer perks to bolster his political allies.”

Similar allegations were made against Khalil, who is affiliated with the Amal Movement and served as finance minister from 2014 to 2020.

“In late 2017 ... Hizballah leaders, fearing a weakening of their political alliance with the Amal Movement, reached an agreement with Khalil where he was prepared to receive Hizballah support for his political success,” the statement said.

In a tweet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said ahead of Schenker’s comments, “We stand with the Lebanese people’s call for reform and will promote accountability for anyone facilitating Hizballah’s terrorist agenda.”

“Today the U.S. is designating two corrupt former Lebanese ministers who abused their positions to provide material support to Hizballah,” he said.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker visited Beirut last week to discuss Washington's assistance to Lebanon as it deals with the aftermath of the Aug.4 port explosion.

Schenker did not meet with Lebanese politicians during his trip, noting in comments to the media that many officials had known for a long time about the existence of the hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that exploded, killing at least 190 people and injuring 6,500 more.

The sanctions are the latest US attempt to pressure Lebanon to weaken Iran-backed Hezbollah’s involvement in the government.

 

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