US sanctions Hezbollah-linked companies, official as new Lebanon govt on hold

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The United States issued more sanctions against Hezbollah Thursday as efforts to form a new government in Lebanon were further hindered by the Iran-backed group and its allies insisting on maintaining hold of the Finance Ministry portfolio.

Arch Consulting Company, based out of the Hezbollah-stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut, was designated for being linked to Hezbollah. Meamar SARL, in Lebanon, was also designated for its links to the group.

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Sultan Asaad, a senior Hezbollah Executive Council official, was designated as well. He is reportedly the deputy to Executive Council Chairman Hashem Saffieddine.

The US said that Asaad also serves as the senior official for Hezbollah’s central municipal portfolio.

"As of early 2019, Asaad was responsible for dozens of companies subordinate to the Executive Council, including Arch and Meamar. He provided project guidance to these companies and was involved in their financial and legal issues," the Treasury Department said.

Thursday’s move came days after two senior politicians close to Hezbollah were sanctioned for their support to the group and for corruption.

Former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos were hit with sanctions, arguably the most aggressive step taken by the US against high-level politicians outside of Hezbollah’s official circle.

Following the sanctions, Parliament speaker Nabih Berri who has been in his role since 1992, took the move personally and refused to allow a finance minister to be named by someone other than his Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

Khalil is also Berri’s top political aide and has been active in the attempts to form a new government under Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib. Adib vowed to form a government of independent ministers and remained adamant about not allowing political parties to name ministers.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that Hezbollah exploits Lebanon’s corrupt system “just like other parties, as today’s designations and our September 8 designation of former ministers demonstrate.

“The Lebanese people deserve better, and the United States will continue to support their calls for an end to corruption and more responsive governance,” he added.

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