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Banks are expected today to start paying out the lira-to-dollar conversions requested last week at the central bank’s Sayrafa rate as more banks prepare to process exchange requests. Middle East and Africa Bank (MEAB), Bank of Beirut and the Arab Countries (BBAC), the Lebanese Swiss Bank, the First National Bank and BLOM Bank will join Al-Mawarid Bank in processing all depositors' conversion requests, a central bank source told L'Orient Today. AM Bank began taking requests from customers and non-customers alike to convert much greater amounts of lira at the Sayrafa rate to expedite transactions amid delays from other banks to implement a Banque du Liban decision removing conversion thresholds which for most depositors were limited to a few hundred dollars per month. BDL last week upped its lira-to-dollar exchange platform Sayrafa rate and removed limits on the amounts of lira depositors could convert at this rate following a sharp drop in the lira's value to an all-time low. While some banks claim to not impose any limits on conversions, such as AM Bank claiming it will process requests up to LL1 billion, limits vary from one bank to another, averaging roughly LL100 million - LL200 million per month. The measures partially recovered the local currency losses which as of now hovers around LL42,000, almost LL4,000 higher than the Sayrafa rate.
Local television Al Jadeed came under non-lethal gunfire for the third time on Friday in supposed retaliation to the airing of a controversial comedy sketch. Unidentified assailants opened fire on the station's Beirut headquarters as others had done Tuesday. The first attack occurred Monday night when the station reported finding an unexploded Molotov cocktail after a comedy program insinuated sexual relations between southern Lebanese women and UN peacekeepers. The skit comes amid an ongoing investigation into the Dec. 14 attack on a United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon convoy in al-Aaqbiya, South Lebanon that killed Irish peacekeeper Sean Rooney and injured three others. Hezbollah reportedly brought into custody one of the alleged gunmen who attacked the convoy last month while a party member criticized the Al Jadeed sketch as "odious."
As Lebanon starts the year with an executive vacuum, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri expressed his doubts about the success of a dialogue session to reach a consensus on the next president. "A president cannot be elected without compromise," Berri said, decrying certain parliamentary blocs' rejection of his call to dialogue. The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement both rejected Berri's previous calls for dialogue sessions. The LF and their allies have consistently backed Zgharta MP Michel Moawad's candidacy while the FPM has abstained from voicing support for any candidates — opting initially for blank ballots in concert with Hezbollah and their allies during the first sessions and then other protest votes following a disagreement between the two parties. Between the start of the electoral period, two months before Michel Aoun's presidential term ended on Nov. 1, and the end of 2022, Parliament held 10 unsuccessful sessions attempting to name the next head of state. Meanwhile, Hezbollah's chairman of Hezbollah's political council, Ibrahim Amin al-Sayed, said the party is satisfied with its relationship to the FPM after a disagreement between the two parties over the caretaker cabinet’s powers amid the presidential vacancy, noting that the party will not veto any candidate during a Monday meeting with Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai.
France intends to support the Lebanese military, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Monday during a visit to Beirut. France has repeatedly donated food and military aid to Lebanese troops, which have received a slew of international support amid deteriorating working and compensation conditions as Lebanon enters another year of economic crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly tasked the minister to "develop a program of military cooperation" between the two countries, aiming to "develop the potential of the Lebanese Army, including the navy," emphasizing action against irregular migration. Irregular departures from Lebanon’s shores more than doubled for a second year in 2022 amid increasingly dire living circumstances. On Saturday, the Lebanese military rescued nearly 200 migrants off the coast of Selaata, northern Lebanon, after their boat sank, leaving two dead.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “Another kind of recap”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz