Lebanon PM appeals for foreign help to combat import crisis

Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri asked foreign allies for help on Friday as its dollar-starved economy faces an import crisis after weeks of political and economic turmoil. (File Photo/ Reuters)
Updated 06 December 2019

Lebanon PM appeals for foreign help to combat import crisis

  • The appeal was part of an effort “to address a liquidity crisis and secure basic imports”, the statement said
  • Petrol station owners have already staged strikes, and hospitals have threatened to stop admitting patients

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri asked foreign allies for help on Friday as its dollar-starved economy faces an import crisis after weeks of political and economic turmoil.
Lebanon asked for credit lines from the United States, France, Russia, Saudi Araba, Egypt, Turkey, China and Italy, a statement from Hariri’s office said.
The appeal was part of an effort “to address a liquidity crisis and secure basic imports” and was critical to preserving food security, the statement said.
Since October 17, Lebanon has been rocked by anti-government protests that triggered a protracted lockdown and prompted the cabinet to resign within two weeks.
But political paralysis amid the ongoing demonstrations has aggravated a dollar liquidity crisis that since September has seen banks limit dollar withdrawals and transfers.
With banks failing to provide sufficient dollars, the greenback is selling for more than 2,000 Lebanese pounds on the parallel market for the first time since it was pegged at 1,507 in 1997.
Importers of fuel, medicines and wheat warn of shortages if the situation persists.
Petrol station owners have already staged strikes, and hospitals have threatened to stop admitting patients, fueling public panic.
To ease the crisis, the central bank said in October it would facilitate access to dollars at the official rate for importers of fuel, wheat and medicinea.
Other sectors have struggled to obtain hard currency for imports however, with banks capping dollar withdrawals at $500 a week.
Even before protests began, economic growth had stalled following repeated political deadlock in recent years, compounded by the war in neighboring Syria.
Public debt stood at more than $86 billion, over 150 percent of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry.
The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the number of people living in poverty climb from a third to 50 percent of the population.
Unemployment, already above 30 percent for young people, would also increase, it said.


US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

Updated 8 min 29 sec ago

US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

  • Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah as terrorist group
  • Hook also said that US sanctions were working

WASHINGTON: The US Department of State imposed sanctions on Friday on a leading Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general following Iran’s crackdown on protesters, US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook said.

“The United States is listing IRGC Brig. Gen. Hassan Shavapor under Section 7031c, visa sanctions,” Hook told reporters.

“General Shavapor committed gross violations of human rights against protesters at the press briefing. He oversaw the massacre of 148 helpless Iranians in the Mashar region last November,” he said.

Hook added that the designation was the result of photographic and video tips submitted to the department by Iranians.

The department has received more than 88,000 such tips since it appealed for Iranians to report evidence of repression and gross human rights abuses, Hook said.

Iran has denied US allegations of widespread repression but has acknowledged confronting separatists in Mahshahr that it said were armed.

Hook's press statement came after Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made comments about the day Tehran hit US bases in Iraq with missiles in response to the killing of the country’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani, calling it “a day of God.”

He also said that the killing of Soleimani was a “disgrace” to the American administration and that the attack showed the “terrorist nature” of Washington.

In response, Hook said: “The more Iran threatens the world, the more isolated it will become.”

Hook also said that US sanctions were working, citing Iran's president Hassan Rouhani admitting financial losses due to the sanctions and pointing toward Iran's "major banking crisis." 

He added: "We have succeeded in making the Iranian regime and whoever helps it pay a heavy price."

Also on Friday, Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as a terrorist group.