Prominent Lebanese Christian politician Gebran Bassil has condemned the personal sanctions the US Treasury imposed on him, calling them “unjust and politicized” retribution for his refusal to cut ties with the Hezbollah movement.
“These sanctions are an injustice, and I will fight them and sue for damages,” Bassil said in a televised speech on Sunday.
The politician rejected the US’ accusations of corruption, insisting the true reason for the sanctions was his political position. Shortly before the restrictions were rolled out, he was approached by US officials demanding assurances from him, including that he end ties with Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Bassil claimed.
The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, while Iran itself has been subjected to numerous sanctions and ever-growing political pressure by Washington.
Bassil said he refused to do so, telling the US he wanted to be its “friend” but not an “agent,” and that harming Lebanon’s integrity was not an option.
“We do not stab any Lebanese in the back for foreign interests,” he stated. “We will not agree to isolating any Lebanese component, even if we pay a heavy price for that.”
The sanctions against the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian party in Lebanon, were unveiled by the US Treasury on Friday.
The restrictions were imposed under the pretext of Lebanon’s rampant corruption, which Bassil had allegedly been “exemplifying.” The Treasury has also accused the politician – the son-in-law of Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun – of indulging in nepotism and placing friends in various important posts.
The Lebanese government has met the sanctions against Bassil with a certain skepticism. President Aoun instructed the Foreign Ministry to obtain any evidence the US has against the politician. When the evidence is produced, it will be forwarded to the Lebanese judiciary “to take the necessary measures,” the president said.
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