US Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea’s brief visit to Beirut this week came at a time when Washington placed Lebanon on its list of closely monitored states.
He came to follow up on the implementation of sanctions imposed against the Hezbollah party and get the latest updates on the liquidation of Jammal Trust bank, which Washington hit with sanctions last month, accusing it of helping fund Hezbollah.
Ministerial and bank sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US official warned Hezbollah’s allies against violating the sanctions, by providing it with field, military and financial support.
“Any person who offers assistance, of any kind, to Hezbollah, would be sanctioned,” the sources said.
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, but it is a major political actor in Lebanon.
In the Lebanese capital, Billingslea met Monday with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, parliament Speaker Nabih Berri - a close Hezbollah ally - as well as officials from the Association of Banks in Lebanon and the central bank governor.
The sources asserted that the US Treasury delegation was satisfied with the measures taken by CB Governor Riad Salameh to handle the Jammal Trust Bank case, adding that Billingslea did not mention the names of new Lebanese banks that could be hit by sanctions.
However, the sources said: “The official was extremely strict when discussing the need to prevent Lebanese banks from opening accounts for Hezbollah members or any individuals linked to the group.”
Billingslea expressed Washington’s keenness on protecting the Lebanese banking system and supporting Lebanon’s economic stability.
Meanwhile, Asharq Al-Awsat learned that Washington is taking tight measures when granting travel visas to Lebanese nationals.
Sources said that the US Embassy in Lebanon could refuse to renew an expired travel visa or even freeze a valid one.
Last week, Washington refused to grant a travel visa to Health Minister Jamil Jabak, the representative of Hezbollah in the government, ahead of a scheduled visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly as part of the official delegation accompanying President Michel Aoun.