In response to the sanctions imposed on him this week by the U.S., the head of the Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, gave a press conference on Sunday, to defend or explain his position to the Lebanese public.
He announced that talks of the US sanctions began back in the summer of 2018, during the formation of the second government of PM Saad El-Hariri.
He revealed that he became a minister in that government due to Hariri’s own insistence. He was told back then that it is important that he becomes the Foreign Minister due to the position’s diplomatic immunity that prevents the imposition of sanctions.
During his speech, he stressed that he will not save himself if that meant the destruction of Lebanon and that the sanctions do not scare him.
He said: “This idea sums up what I went through in the recent period in my relationship with America in regards of Hezbollah and Lebanon. The truth is that the road with America has always been difficult, but we are forced to walk it and endure injustice to remain free in our homeland and protect Lebanon from division and fighting.”
He also said that a senior American official contacted President Michel Aoun and asked him to end his connections with Hezbollah immediately and that they never once raised the issue of corruption. “I have repeatedly asked the US and international officials to help me fight corruption and return the stolen money,” Gebran said, “but there was no response.”
He asked: “If I agreed to cut the relationship with Hezbollah, will I still be accused of corruption?”
“I refused the US Secretary of State’s description of Hezbollah as a terrorist and I refused to cut connections with the party because that would lead to sedition… The Americans are seeking to create disorder in Lebanon and they stepped up their efforts during my participation in the government in 2017.”
Bassil said that he will work to assign a law firm with the aim of nullifying the sanctions‘ decision. That is because. according to him, this decision lacks a legal basis. Plus, he will request moral and material compensation.
“I couldn’t believe that the largest country in the world was not providing any evidence or proof of its accusations.” It is to note that there is a lawsuit filed in the U.S. against Bassil and other FPM members and Lebanese officials in a case involving alleged “kidnapping, extortion, and torture” of a Lebanese-American couple.
Bassil blamed Israel for the US sanctions on him, alleging Israel’s aim to strike the Christians in Lebanon and out of the region.
“These sanctions come from Israel, which is in its interest to strike Christians in Lebanon and deport them from the region… Americans should know that the sanctions will not weaken Hezbollah, and they will defend themselves,” he issued, although Hezbollah is not a Christian party but an Iran-backed Shia one.
As for his relationship with the party, Bassil said that he cannot betray any Lebanese in favor of a foreigner. “Hezbollah and Iran have never threatened me with sanctions just for the sake of disagreement … on the contrary, they respect us.”
Finally, he expressed that the formation of the new government in Lebanon should be done soon. He also congratulated the new US President Joe Biden, declaring his intention to work with the new administration to develop relations between them.