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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France asks the US for to show more 'realism' towards Hezbollah

Date of publication: 27 January, 2021

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France hopes it can join forces with the US to help Lebanon find a way out of its current economical crisis
The US needs to adopt a more realistic approach towards Lebanon's Hezbollah in order to help Beirut break a political and economic impasse that threatens the plunge the country into crisis, a French official told reporters on Tuesday.

Although there was no clarification on what "changes in attitude" meant, it could be a request for President Joe Biden's administration to reassess the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which has been in place since 2015.

Imposed during President Barack Obama's administration - in which Joe Biden served as vice-president - the law aims to sever Hezbollah's global funding networks.

"There is urgency in Lebanon and we think that there are priorities that we (France and the United States) can pursue together […] We don't expect a change in American attitude towards Hezbollah, but more American realism on what is possible or not given the circumstances in Lebanon," the French official told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron has shown a strong interest in Lebanon, which has been the focus of his Middle East policy.

Macron twice visited Beirut after the 4 August explosion, which destroyed large parts of the city, and is communicating with the Lebanese government on how to help fix the country's worst economic crisis in decades - so far without tangible results.

Read also: In crisis-hit Lebanon, Paris and Washington at odds with Hezbollah

Macron and Joe Biden have already discussed the Lebanon issue during a phone call on 24 January, among other topics.

At the end of December, MP Loic Kervran, head of the Lebanese-French Friendship Committee in the National Assembly, said that the French initiative aimed at helping Lebanon is still in place and France will not abandon Beirut during its time in need.

It is unclear what France can do on a practical level, as Macron could be blocked by several political actors in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

A rocky relationship between Hezbollah and the US

Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Lebanese Shia Muslim political party and militant group driven by its opposition to Israel.

It has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department since 1995 and continues to draw attention from American officials, particularly those who support Israel.

The movement is also part of the Lebanese government and holds 12 out of 128 parliamentary seats.

Former President Trump has included Hezbollah among designated terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The Trump administration has dealt aggressively with Iran during its term in office, pulling out of a nuclear deal and putting strong economic pressure on Tehran, which also affected allies such as Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has criticised Trump's actions many times, calling him a "crazy fool" early January and said he was pleased about his "humiliating downfall" during the latest elections.



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