The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Gebran Bassil, the leader of Lebanon’s biggest Christian political bloc and son-in-law of President Michel Aoun, accusing him of corruption and ties to Hezbollah, Reuters reports.
Bassil heads the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), founded by Aoun, and has served as minister of telecoms, of energy and water and of foreign affairs.
He said in a Twitter post that sanctions did not scare him and that he had not been “tempted” by promises.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, said in a statement quoted by Reuters that it considered the US move a “purely political decision and a blatant and gross interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.”
“This decision specifically aims to force a big Lebanese political team to submit to American conditions and dictates on Lebanon,” the group added.
The sanctions could complicate efforts by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, who is trying to navigate Lebanon’s sectarian politics to assemble a cabinet to tackle a financial crisis, Lebanon’s worst crisis its 1975-1990 civil war.
A source familiar with the process said the move was likely to harden the FPM’s stance in negotiations on a new government.
The FPM has a political alliance with Hezbollah. Bassil has argued in the past that while the Lebanese government's partnership with Hezbollah has taken a toll on Lebanon's relations with the West, it has helped Lebanon gain internal stability and maintain national unity.
In recent months, the United States has placed sanctions on several Lebanese officials linked to Hezbollah. This has included sanctions against two former Lebanese Cabinet ministers allied with the terrorist organization: Ex-finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and the former public works and transportation minister, Youssef Fenianos.
The Treasury Department said Bassil was at the “forefront of corruption in Lebanon”.
“Through his corrupt activities, Bassil has also undermined good governance and contributed to the prevailing system of corruption and political patronage that plagues Lebanon, which has aided and abetted Hizballah’s (Hezbollah) destabilizing activities,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
A senior US official said Bassil’s support for Hezbollah was “every bit of the motivation” for targeting him for sanctions.
The State Department also imposed a ban on Bassil’s travel to the United States.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)