BEIRUT (AP) — Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc said Thursday that U.S. sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with the militant group could threaten Lebanon's financial sector, hinting that supporters may withdraw their money from local banks.
The bloc, known as Loyalty to the Resistance, criticized the central bank for saying it would abide by the U.S. law, which came into effect last month and which the Hezbollah lawmakers said violates Lebanon's sovereignty.
The bloc said Lebanon's central bank and private banks would be participating in "a war of exclusion" against the group by upholding the law.
Lebanon's central bank governor has said it will abide by the restrictions in the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which was signed into law in December.
The U.S. regulations say Washington will target those "knowingly facilitating a significant transaction or transactions for" Hezbollah or any individual, business or institution linked to the group.
Those under sanctions include Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and top commander Mustafa Badreddine as well as some businessmen. The list also includes the group's Al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio.
Nasrallah said last year that his group won't be affected by the law because it doesn't deal with Lebanese or foreign banks. But a large network of social and educational organizations associated with Hezbollah provide services to its supporters and other Lebanese, and deal directly with the government.
When asked last month whether banks dealing with Hezbollah Cabinet ministers or legislators who get paid by the state would be affected, Lebanese central bank Governor Riad Salameh told The Associated Press that the law does not mention salaries.
Lebanese officials and lawyers say the impact of the law on the country's economy remains unclear. U.S. Treasury officials are expected in Lebanon later this month to discuss its implementation.