US official meets leaders in Lebanon over anti-Hezbollah sanctions

BEIRUT (AP) — A senior United States (US) Treasury official visited Beirut yesterday, where he explained the motives behind recent US sanctions targetting Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor said.

Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea met with the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament, as well as officials from the Association of Banks in Lebanon and the Central Bank Governor.

Hezbollah holds three Cabinet seats, and along with its allies has more power than ever in the Parliament and government. It is also among the most effective armed groups in the region. Domestically, the group’s power exceeds that of the Lebanese armed forces.

Lebanon’s Central Bank chief Riad Salameh played down reports in local media that the US will impose further sanctions on the country’s dollar-strapped banking system. He said Billingslea “is not coming here to squeeze Lebanon”.

A US embassy statement said Billingslea “will encourage Lebanon to take the necessary steps to maintain distance from Hezbollah and other malign actors attempting to destabilise Lebanon and its institutions.”

United States (US) Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea meets with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in Beirut. PHOTO: AP