Lebanon News

Hezbollah not ruling out IMF help: Nasrallah

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, giving a televised speech at an unknown location, May 14, 2018. (AFP/Al-Manar)

BEIRUT: Any international support to help extract Lebanon from a crippling financial and economic crisis must be free of conditions that hurt the poor or the country's best interests, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Friday.

"We have no objection to the government seeking the advice of any international entity – even the IMF – as long as it comes without conditions that violate the constitution or the national interest," Nasrallah said in a televised address.

Hezbollah's deputy leader Naim Qassem previous said that the party was against IMF intervention because the likely conditions attached to a bailout would hit the poor hardest. Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah had also warned that the terms would "lead to a popular revolution."

Lebanon is weighing up the possibility of asking the IMF for financial assistance as the country deals with its worst financial and economic crisis in decades and struggles to cope with suffocating public debt that amounts to around 170 percent of GDP.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced last Saturday that Lebanon would default on a $1.2 billion Eurobond that matured Monday, and negotiate with creditors to restructure the remaining $31 billion of foreign currency debt.

Nasrallah said Friday that a rescue plan should not include tax raises on the poor or take money "from the pockets of the Lebanese people."

"Reform, fighting corruption, transparency and judicial independece are excellent conditions that we have asked for," he said.

Nasrallah called upon Lebanese banks – which own a large amount of the public debt – to "extend a helping hand to the state" as it deals with the economic crisis and battles to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He said that the government is doing a good job in developing a "consultative plan" to rescue the economy, but regeretted that coronavirus had now taken priority.

In a solemn and lengthy speech, Nasrallah said that the battle against coronavirus is a national duty for all, which must be approached with absolute unity.

“We need to consider ourselves in a battle – a global war – not just in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said. “Whether Christian or Muslim ... we have a duty to care for ourselves, our family and those around us. You will be asked about this on Judgement Day, and violation of this duty is a great sin.”

The Hezbollah leader asked both his supporters and opponents to look beyond political, sectarian and religious differences to tackle coronavirus with a “cooperative and humanitarian spirit.”

He warned that the battle against the deadly virus would not be successful and will lead to greater losses if it is instrumentalized for political gain and score-settling.

Nasrallah called for a gradual approach that first aims at stopping the virus' spread between people, before bringing it under total control. He asked for people to avoid large gatherings, pray at home and to self-isolate, where possible.

“The virus can be defeated if everyone takes responsibility and plays their part,” he said.

“The choice is not surrender, but resistance, facing [coronavirus] head on, and taking responsibility ... The entire government as well as the judiciary, Parliament, Army, security forces, municipalities are responsible. The Lebanese people also carry great responsibility, along with refugees and the displaced.”

 

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