BEIRUT — Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) head Gebran Bassil launched a new dig Sunday evening at the Hezbollah-Amal tandem amid increasingly strained relations.
During a meeting with FPM representatives from the Baabda area, the Batroun MP said that the parties criticizing presidential candidate Jihad Azour, a top IMF official opposed by Hezbollah and Amal, should not have been part of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's cabinet in 2008.
Jihad Azour was the finance minister in Siniora's first cabinet, formed in 2005, in which four Shiite ministers were supported by or were members of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement. These ministers resigned in November 2006 to protest against Siniora's intention to support the founding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, charged with judging those responsible for the assassination of Rafic Hariri. In July 2008, Fouad Siniora again formed a cabinet, in which Hezbollah and Amal were again represented by three ministers.
"For six months, we have been saying that we will not accept a challenging candidate, especially as we do not want to challenge any Lebanese component," Bassil said. "So we waited until we agreed on a candidate who does not represent a challenge to anyone" he added, in reference to Azour.
"Anyone who wants to consider Jihad Azour a challenging candidate should not have participated in Fouad Siniora's cabinet in 2008, and anyone who doesn't like Azour should not have accepted Siniora as prime minister."
Bassil added that he regretted his party was "the only one against which sanctions have been imposed for its relations with Hezbollah."
The FPM leader was sanctioned by the US Treasury in November 2020 for corruption, notably in the energy sector. At the same time, the US State Department sanctioned Bassil on the grounds that his acts of corruption had "aided and abetted" the operations of Hezbollah, considered a terrorist organization by Washington.
Two months earlier, the US administration, then headed by Donald Trump, had sanctioned MPs and former ministers Youssef Fenianos (of the Marada Movement) and Ali Hassan Khalil (Amal) for "corruption" and support for Hezbollah.