LEBANON-US: Aoun asks U.S. to hand over evidence of corruption, Bassil says U.S. sanctions against him are politically motivated

WASHINGTON / BEIRUT – An anonymous U.S. State Department official confirmed to Asarq al-Awsat newspaper that his country will use all its authority to hold accountable all Lebanese leaders “who put their personal interests above those of the Lebanese people”. The official pointed out that the United States is not targeting a particular group, party, or sect, but rather targets corruption and that Lebanese leaders must respond to the popular demands of the Lebanese people and immediately implement the necessary reforms to eradicate the rampant corruption

The strong warning comes after the imposition of U.S. sanctions against former Lebanese Foreign Minister and current leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil. Sanctioning the leader of the ruling Free Patriotic Movement, which is in a coalition with Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah, means the U.S. wants the Free Patriotic Movement to break its cooperation with Hezbollah and won’t allow them to be part of the any Lebanese government or the new cabinet of Prime Minister Designate Hariri.

The U.S. Treasury Department has accused Hezbollah of being “responsible, directly or indirectly involved in corruption, including embezzlement of state assets and confiscation of private assets for personal gain,” and has imposed sanctions on several high-profile Hezbollah members. Gebran Bassil has called the US sanctions against him unjust, politically motivated and the result of his refusal to break ties with Hezbollah or “Party of God”.

In a response to the U.S. sanctions, Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced in a tweet that he had asked the current Minister of Foreign Affairs to obtain the evidence and documents that prompted the U.S. Treasury Department to press charges against Bassil, in the event such evidence is available, so that the Lebanese judiciary can take the necessary legal measures.

Gebran Bassil is the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Both are Syriac Maronites.