Lebanese FM asks US for Bassil sanction files

Charbel Wehbe. (Photo/Social media)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Lebanese FM asks US for Bassil sanction files

  • Meeting comes ‘within framework of foreign ministers’ meetings

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s foreign minister has urged US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea to provide the information and documents that led to sanctions against Gebran Bassil.
Charbel Wehbe, who was made minister in Lebanon’s caretaker government, met with Shea on Monday to discuss bilateral ties and the sanctions placed on the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM).
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the meeting came “within the framework of the foreign minister’s meetings with diplomats in Lebanon,” meaning that Shea was not summoned.
On Nov. 6, the US Treasury imposed sanctions against Bassil, the first Lebanese official to be punished under the Magnitsky Act, the US legislation that targets human rights violations and corruption.
Individuals targeted by Magnitsky sanctions face seizure of property and financial assets, investigations into associated companies, entities and individuals and a ban on entering the US.
Following the sanctions against his son-in-law, Lebanese President Michel Aoun asked Wehbe to “make the necessary contacts  to obtain the evidence and documents that prompted the US Treasury to press charges and impose sanctions against Bassil, and hand over these documents to the Lebanese judiciary in order for it to take the necessary legal measures if any information on these accusations is available.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “The systemic corruption in Lebanon’s political system, exemplified by Bassil, has helped to erode the foundation of an effective government that serves the Lebanese people. Lebanon has long suffered from corruption and economic mismanagement by power brokers who advance their own interests at the expense of the Lebanese people they are supposed to represent.”
On Monday, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry said that Shea affirmed her country’s “support for Lebanon in several areas, in addition to the issue of negotiations over the demarcation of maritime borders, the issue of the return of the displaced to their country, the stage of transition from the current administration to the new administration in the US, in addition to the measures taken by the US administration against some Lebanese, including former deputies and ministers, and the head of a parliamentary bloc.”

FASTFACT

Lebanese President Michel Aoun asked Wehbe to ‘make the necessary contacts to obtain the evidence and documents that prompted the US Treasury to impose sanctions against Bassil.’

Former Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, under Prime Minister Hassan Diab, previously summoned Shea after she released statements describing Hezbollah as a “terrorist group.” Following the ambassador’s comments, a Lebanese judge controversially prevented media from publishing the statements or meeting with her.
Shea said during an interview with the Institute for International Strategic Studies three days ago that the US “will continue to pursue a policy of pressure on Hezbollah,” adding that “the relationship of Gebran Bassil with Hezbollah constitutes a cover for the party’s weapons in exchange for Hezbollah overlooking Bassil’s corruption.”
Shea said: “Washington is insisting on its position in helping to fight corruption in Lebanon so that progress is achieved in this field, step by step, and there will be nothing free after today.
“The US administration has not yet acted like the Gulf states, which moved away from Lebanon and stopped supporting it, and the US did not support Hassan Diab’s government because it was Hezbollah that formed it, but it stood by the Lebanese people.” “We will monitor what the next government will look like to determine the US position.”
In light of a severe economic crisis, the formation of a rescue government headed by Saad Hariri is facing political obstacles from the FPM and other Hezbollah allies.
MP Bilal Abdullah, a member of the parliamentary alliance Democratic Gathering, told Arab News that “The US side is not enthusiastic about any rescue mission in Lebanon and has coolly dealt with the French initiative.” Now, after the visit of French envoy to Lebanon Patrick Dorrell, which ended in failure, it seems that Lebanon will be left in isolation.” The Americans believe that it is the right time to put pressure on Lebanon.
On the other hand, Hezbollah and its allies are trying to play on time. In the midst of this, we are just around the corner from total collapse. The picture is very bleak because the state is spending its last savings and the citizens are spending their savings as well.
“Where were the objectors to the sanctions against Bassil when the Syrian regime classified the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt and the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, as terrorists? They were silent at the time, but today their voices are loud against the sanctions against Bassil. People are not interested in what happens to political leaderships. If the government is not formed, the country is heading to the abyss. It is a farce.”


Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

Updated 02 December 2020

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

  • “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran” minister tweeted

JEDDAH: Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring the government to boost uranium enrichment by 20 percent and end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The move is being viewed by analysts as a show of defiance after the recent killing of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination for which Tehran has accused other countries of masterminding.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was “desperate” to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happened in Iran.

“Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted. “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979.

“Ask us and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” Al-Jubeir added.

The latest bill would require another parliamentary vote to pass, as well as approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.

“There is no doubt that this step constitutes a threat, raising it to 20 percent means that it is close to building a nuclear bomb,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The region is promised with a dark and unstable period.”

He said that the move indicated the Iranian regime’s insistence on destabilizing the region, and its determination to win the race to obtain nuclear weapons.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site.

“Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or its proximity to achieving that goal will be a great danger to the region, and countries will seek to protect themselves, which will mean that everyone will resort to obtaining nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh’s death suggests that Iran was waiting for this opportunity to escalate,” Al-Shehri added.

The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting slogans against the US and Israel.

The bill would give European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal three months to ease sanctions on Iran’s key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system.

“Many technical issues related to the nuclear bomb creation were not closely followed up by P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s permanent members of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany),” said Al-Shehri.

“We also should not forget that Iran was not clear and was preventing and limiting inspections at its nuclear facilities, moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not do its work properly so that the world could breathe easily.

“Iran may have the nuclear bomb by now without the international community taking any action against it.

“The assassination of a scientist will not change the equation, even the strikes on Iranian facilities would not affect the real Iranian infrastructure.

“Iran wasn’t confronted the way that would make the world comfortable, nor the way that a terrorist rogue state should have been treated as it distributed terrorism through its militias, ballistic missiles, and drones in the region,” he added.