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Lebanon closes Hezbollah bank accounts

Published June 9th, 2016 - 07:45 GMT
Young Lebanese sit below posters of Shia leaders including Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah. (AFP/File)
Young Lebanese sit below posters of Shia leaders including Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah. (AFP/File)

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Wednesday that 100 accounts linked to Hezbollah have so far been closed, in accordance with a U.S. law targeting the group's finances.

In an interview with CNBC, Salameh said that the Central Bank is doing its part to implement the U.S. law, and the "priority is for Lebanon to remain on the international financial map."

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act on December 2005, which cam into effect this year.

In March 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control released the names of 99 individuals, social centers, schools, charitable groups and trade firms and media outlets that are connected to Hezbollah, which Washington labels a terrorist group.

All Lebanese and international banks are obliged to freeze or suspend the accounts of all names listed by OFAC or face sanctions if they fail to do so.

"We have taken measures to implement the law, and we have laid the infrastructure necessary to achieve its objectives," he said, assuring that the access of Lebanon's Shiite community to banks will be guaranteed.

"Lebanon is a small country and the economy of Lebanon depends on the Lebanese (people), it doesn't depend on natural resources or exports. We have a good industrial sector, but it doesn't weigh a lot on our economy so the pillar is to keep confidence in the country."

Hezbollah is believed to operate all its military, social, educational, religious and medical centers through direct funding from Iran and donations from the party's sympathizers.

Observers say that it is difficult to monitor the cash movement if they don't go through the legitimate proper channels, such as banks and financial institutions.

Salameh said that the Central Bank is working to preserve the country's monetary stability amid the political divisions and unrest taking place in the Middle East.

"Obviously there is also a deadlock on the regional level and the only interest for the international community in Lebanon is that Lebanon is receiving Syrians and to make sure those Syrians are kept in Lebanon."

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