Hezbollah said mired in financial crisis

Lebanese banking delegation to head to US as Washington poised to impose sanctions on Lebanese terror group

Hezbollah fighters attending a rally in Beirut, Lebanon, November 2011. (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
Hezbollah fighters attending a rally in Beirut, Lebanon, November 2011. (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)

A Lebanese banking delegation is reportedly heading to the US next month after Washington said it would impose sanctions on terror group Hezbollah, which is said to be mired in financial crisis.

The US House of Representatives voted unanimously on December 16 to impose tough new sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

According to Lebanese media reports, a team representing the Association of Banks in Lebanon will head to New York and Washington to discuss the new proposed guidelines with Treasury and State Department officials.

Sources linked to the delegation told the Lebanese An Nahar daily “the sector has no problem with the US authorities which are closely following up on Lebanon’s commitment to international laws and adherence to them, but that these commitments must be re-confirmed after the issuance of the said law,” according to a translation by the Naharnet website.

The reports said the Iran-backed Hezbollah is facing financial difficulties, and failed to pay November and December salaries to its officials.

The bill targeting the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington and Israel, passed the Senate last month. It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The legislation also targets Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar by aiming to cut the broadcast of satellite operators that air the channel’s programming.

The House adopted the measure 422 to 0, following a unanimous vote in the Senate on November 17.

Obama will sign the legislation, a senior administration official told AFP, adding that the administration has worked with Congress for years “to intensify the pressure against the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”

The new rules direct the president to prescribe punishing regulations against financial institutions that conduct transactions with Hezbollah or otherwise launder funds for the organization.

It also requires the administration to present to Congress a series of reports highlighting the group’s narcotics trafficking, transnational crime and operations of international groups linked to Hezbollah, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The administration will list those particular countries that support Hezbollah, or in which the group maintains a key logistical base.

“Hezbollah has had to cast a wide net because most Lebanese banks have not wanted to do business with them,” a congressional expert on the legislation told AFP.

With participants in Hezbollah’s global networks “in our cross-hairs, they should be worried,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce told lawmakers Wednesday ahead of the vote.

“There is no question that Hezbollah is stronger than ever,” said congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who described the group as a dangerous enemy to Israel and one that has amassed more than 150,000 rockets and missiles and gained hardened battlefield experience in Syria.

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