U.S sanctions intensify as Hezbollah rebuffs French initiative

Source: Annahar
Georgi Azar
The Lebanese government building, Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo)
The Lebanese government building, Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo)
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BEIRUT: Hezbollah ruled out Thursday any possibility of facilitating the formation of an independent government, after insisting on naming its representatives in the government.
“We refuse to let anyone name our representatives in the government, especially in the Finance Ministry," a fiery statement issued by the group said.
Prime Minister-designate Moustapha Adib, who met with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Presidential Palace for the latest round of deliberations, agreed to allow more time for consulations to break the deadlock over the hotly contested Finance Ministry.
“I discussed with the president the difficulties we face in forming the government,” Adib said after the meeting, urging everyone to cooperate. “Lebanon does not have the luxury of time,” he added. 
Adib has been adamant on making good on his promises to French President Emmanuel Macron by forming a scaled-down government of independent experts. Adib has also been pushing for the sovereign ministries, including the Finance, Foreign and Interior Ministries, to be rotated among rival parties.
This now appears to have been laid to rest, with Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal Movement refusing to part ways with the finance portfolio, while criticizing their rivals for similar political maneuvering.
“Any attempt by the others to name their ministers in the Cabinet amount to a hollowing out of the French initiative,” the statement read.
While Adib was meeting with Aoun, the U.S rolled out its latest batch of sanctions targeting the small Mediterranean country and blacklisted "two Lebanon-based companies, Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction, for being owned, controlled, or directed by Hezbollah. Additionally, OFAC designated Sultan Khalifah As’ad, a Hezbollah Executive Council official, who is closely associated with both companies." 
The U.S accused Hezbollah of working with former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos to “ensure that Arch and Meamar won bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars,” before funneling profits to the Iranian-backed militant group. 
Fenianos was sanctioned last week, along with former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, for providing material support to Hezbollah. 
Sources familiar with the negotiations told Annahar that Adib was even considering submitting his resignation, fearing a similar fate to that of his predecessor Hassan Diab.
Diab’s government, which was mostly made up of representatives from Hezbollah, Amal, Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and their allies, was mired with controversies and acute failures in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.
His dismal tenure was capped off with the Beirut port explosion on August 4 that killed almost 200 people, injured thousands and left hundreds homeless.
On Thursday, French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher met Hezbollah's head of international relations Ammar Moussawi in an attempt to find a compromise, but to no avail.
Speaker Nabih Berri and head of Amal had repeatedly argued that the Taef agreement reserved the finance ministry portfolio to a Shiite, awarding the community a key signature in the executive branch under Lebanon’s confessional power sharing system.
The Finance Minister’s signature is required on all decrees that entail government spending, effectively granting the post holder veto power on a wide range of fiscal and administrative issues including the appointment of senior civil servants.

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