|25 May, 2019

Lebanon cracking down on terror financing, President tells U.S. official

President Michel Aoun said Lebanon’s laws were being applied “firmly and accurately, as witnessed by international financial institutions.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Friday told a senior U.S. official that Lebanon was cracking down on terrorism financing and money laundering with the strict application of its laws.

During his meeting at Baabda Palace with Eliot Engel, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Aoun said Lebanon’s laws were being applied “firmly and accurately, as witnessed by international financial institutions.”

The president also thanked Engel for U.S. support for the Lebanese Army, which has “eliminated terrorism and achieved security and stability in all of [Lebanon’s] territory, particularly its northern, eastern and southern borders.” Engel said the U.S. intended to continue supporting Lebanon and its Army.

Since President Donald Trump’s election, the U.S. has been ramping up pressure on Hezbollah, which it classifies as a terrorist organization, with senior officials visiting Beirut repeatedly to discuss the group’s financing. Lebanese officials have sought to ensure the country is not swept up in escalating U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah’s finances.

Aoun told Engel that Lebanon was a “peace-loving country” looking to guarantee the “safety of its people and the peoples of the Middle East.”

In line with this those goals, Aoun said Lebanon remained committed to implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 War between Hezbollah and Israel. He also called for assistance in demarcating the southern land and maritime borders between Lebanon and the Jewish state, both of which contain portions that are the subject of dispute.

Engel later met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the premier’s Downtown residence. A statement from Hariri’s office said the pair discussed bilateral relations and regional developments.

Hariri earlier in the day had welcomed a top adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, also to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Lebanon.

Ahead of his meeting with Hariri, Aurelien Lechevallier met with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. The pair spoke about reforms that Lebanon had pledged to introduce at the 2018 CEDRE conference in Paris, as well as the draft 2019 state budget.

Ministers Friday agreed to all the articles within the budget.

It is set to be endorsed at a session held at Baabda Palace at a date yet to be determined.

Lechevallier also met with Energy Minister Nada Boustani.

According to local news channel LBCI, Lechevallier expressed relief that Parliament had approved Boustani’s plan to revamp Lebanon’s electricity sector.

Reform of Lebanon’s crippled power sector is one of this government’s major goals.

France and other countries, as well as international organizations such as the World Bank, have pushed the Lebanese government to reform the sector, which has operated at a deficit for years.

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