Friday, February 25, 2011

Gen. Qahwaji receives U.S. Senior Officer.

NNA - 25/02/2011 Lebanese Army Chief, General Jean Qahwaji, received Friday at his office in Yarzeh the Senior Officer of U.S. Central Command Charles Cleveland, accompanied by a military delegation.
Talks focused on means of enhancing bilateral military cooperation between Lebanon and the U.S.A.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Senators McCain and Lieberman Visit Lebanon

22/02/11 NNA - The US Embassy in Beirut issued on Tuesday the following statement:
"On February 21-22, 2011, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut visited Lebanon as part of a six-country tour to the region. The Senators held discussions with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati and other Lebanese political leaders. The Senators also visited the memorial site for Rafik Hariri and laid a wreath there in his honor. Senators McCain and Lieberman expressed the United States' continuing support for Lebanon's sovereignty, stability, and prosperity, calling on the next Lebanese government to provide stability and promote justice for the people of Lebanon by honoring its international agreements. The Senators expressed the view that the international community will judge Lebanon by the make-up of the next cabinet, its Ministerial Statement and ultimately the actions it takes in regard to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Lebanon's other international obligations. Senator McCain said that "the work of the Tribunal is of vital importance to stability, security and justice in Lebanon. It is important that it continue. Any government that is truly representative of all of Lebanon would not abandon the effort to end the era of impunity for assassinations in the country." Senator Lieberman observed that "this is a decisive moment for Lebanon. Choosing between justice and peace in Lebanon is a false choice. Without justice for Rafik Hariri and the dozens of other innocent victims of terrorism in Lebanon, there can be no peace or stability for Lebanon." Senator McCain is the Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and serves on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. Senator Lieberman is Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Airland and sits on the Personnel and Seapower Subcommittees; and the Small Business Committee."

U.S. Ambassador Connelly Visits PM-designate Najib Mikati

February 18, 2011
Ambassador Connelly met today with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati and discussed his ongoing efforts to form a new government. They both affirmed the importance for the United States and Lebanon to maintain the strong and fruitful relationship between the two countries. The United States believes the way forward for U.S. – Lebanese relations will be guided by how the new government determines its program of work and implements its policies. Ambassador Connelly reiterated to Mr. Mikati that the U.S. hopes that he will preserve the government formation process from outside influence. Ambassador Connelly also expressed the United States’ expectation that the ministers in the new Lebanese cabinet will continue to work to uphold the government’s responsibilities both to its own people and constitution as well as to the international community. Lebanon’s continuing commitment to its international obligations will be judged in the actions taken by the next government in regard to the relevant UN resolutions, beginning with the content of the next government’s ministerial statement. A government that is truly representative of the interests of the people of Lebanon will continue to support and sustain the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Statement by the President on the Anniversary of the Assassination of Rafiq Hariri on February 14th.

Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2011
On this sixth anniversary of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 other innocent victims, the United States reaffirms our strong support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its mission to find the truth behind that outrageous act of terrorism. Ending the era of impunity for political assassinations is essential to realizing the justice and stability that the Lebanese people deserve, and any attempt to interfere with the Tribunal’s work or fuel tensions within Lebanon must not be tolerated.

The cause for which Prime Minister Hariri and so many Lebanese patriots gave their lives must remain our guide. To this end, the United States will never waver in our support for the sovereignty, integrity and independence of Lebanon, and we remain committed to the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701. At this critical moment, we call on all friends of Lebanon to stand with the people of Lebanon, who must be free to determine their own destiny. And those Lebanese who forge their future in a spirit of peace and reconciliation will continue to have a strong partner in the United States.

Anniversary of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's Assassination.

The February 14, 2005 assassinations of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others with a car bomb in downtown Beirut changed Lebanon forever. The assassination of "Mr. Lebanon" reminded all Lebanese of the fragility of their pluralistic system. Rafiq Hariri was not only a symbol for Lebanon; he was a husband, father, brother, and friend. He transcended sect and stood with the people of Lebanon, giving hope to his country after 15 years of ruinous civil war.

For decades, the people of Lebanon have fought for their inherent right to live free from fear of murder for political reasons. We call on the next Lebanese government to provide stability and promote justice for the people of Lebanon by honoring its obligations to the Tribunal. This is a decisive moment for Lebanon. No more Lebanese families should ever have to mourn the deaths of loved ones at the hand of cowardly assassins. Those who would try to block Lebanon's cooperation should desist and show a measure of human decency. Ultimately, without justice, there can be no peace and stability for Lebanon.

The United States continues its unwavering support for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701, 1680 and 1559. These resolutions are testaments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. The United States and the international community stand solidly behind the people of Lebanon as they observe this day of sorrow. We remain committed to working together for a peaceful, prosperous, and sovereign Lebanon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Developments in Egypt and Lebanon (Part 1 & 2).

Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Developments in Egypt and Lebanon Part 1.:
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement earlier today at a Committee hearing entitled “Recent Developments in Egypt and Lebanon: Implications for U.S. Policy and Allies in the Broader Middle East:

“Recent developments in Egypt and Lebanon pose great challenges to U.S. policy, interests, and allies in the Middle East. In Lebanon, we have witnessed the takeover of the country by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. In Egypt, we see the destabilization of a government which has been a key U.S. partner for over three decades. In both instances, successive U.S. administrations failed to develop and implement a longer-term strategy to move beyond the status quo and prepare for the future.

“In both Egypt and Lebanon, we have failed to effectively leverage U.S. assistance in support of peaceful, pro-democracy forces and to help build strong, accountable, independent, democratic institutions as a bulwark against the instability that is now spreading throughout much of the region. Instead of being proactive, we have been obsessed with maintaining short-term, personality-based stability—stability that was never really all that stable, as the events of recent weeks demonstrates.

“Successive Administrations have repeatedly opposed and obstructed efforts by Members of Congress to require accountability in ensuring Egypt met conditions for its economic assistance.

“The Mubarak government has been a reliable and valuable ally of the United States on security matters. But the relationship must extend well beyond Mubarak. It would be short-sighted and potentially dangerous for the United States to base its entire approach to another nation on the survival of one individual.

“In the early days of the current unrest, the Administration failed to seize the opportunity to press for reform to address the demonstrators’ frustrations and prevent chaos and violence. On January 25th—the first day of the demonstrations—Secretary Clinton stated that “our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable…” Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview on January 27th, said that “I would not refer to [Mubarak] as a dictator.” According to the Wall Street Journal, National Security Council officials admitted in a meeting on January 31st that they did not have a contingency plan in place should the Egyptian government collapse.

“Now, the White House is reportedly making matters worse by not only reexamining its position on dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, but also stating that a new Egyptian government should “…include a whole host of important non-secular actors.” The Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with driving these protests, and they and other extremists must not be allowed to hijack the movement toward democracy and freedom in Egypt.

“Turning to Lebanon, we are again confronted by the absence of a long-term U.S. strategy.
As Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah have acted relentlessly to undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty, the U.S. has largely adopted a reactive posture, seeking to contain the advance of these hostile forces.

“Washington has also persisted in continuing to provide assistance to a Lebanese government in which Hezbollah essentially had veto power. This included security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), despite longstanding concerns over whether such aid could directly or indirectly benefit Hezbollah. Even now, when the Lebanese government has been overthrown, the United States has still failed to indicate that it will cut off assistance to a proxy government for Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.

“There are lessons from the Lebanon debacle which are applicable to Egypt. In Lebanon, following the Hariri assassination, elections were immediately held under a Syrian-inspired electoral law, laying the foundation for the political empowerment of Hezbollah. Therefore, shouldn’t the U.S. insist that constitutional and administrative requirements concerning the electoral process in Egypt be revised to ensure that only responsible actors who meet certain basic standards participate in Egypt’s future?

“Such criteria should include: renouncing violent extremism, upholding the rule of law, and recognizing and enforcing Egypt's international commitments, including its nonproliferation obligations and its peace agreement with the Jewish State of Israel.

“I would greatly appreciate it if our witnesses this morning would address the following questions in their testimony:

• Can there be stability in Egypt if Mubarak remains in power?
• Do conditions enable a military-controlled transition process? Would this buy time for legitimate opposition forces to organize, and for constitutional modifications to take place?
• There are some who have suggested that Egypt could follow a Turkey model? How viable is this comparison? Given patterns that have recently developed in Turkey, could Egypt’s adoption of this model lead to possible threats to U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East?
• Can the legitimate opposition assume a leadership role?
• Can the military transition to the civil arena?
• What changes in the Egyptian constitution would be necessary to ensure that candidates for public office are going to act and govern democratically.
• What criteria are necessary to ensure that radical Islamists are not empowered?

“Beyond Egypt and Lebanon, the U.S. must have a broader strategic plan for the region, so that our interests and allies are protected, and the destructive regimes in Tehran and Damascus and other extremists are unable to exert their influence over people yearning for democracy.

“These questions are particularly relevant as we commemorate the centennial of the birth of President Ronald Reagan. During his Westminster Address, Reagan stated:

‘Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. …While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy…’

“We face an emergency in Lebanon and Egypt that could spread to the broader Middle East. With cautious determination, we thank our esteemed witnesses for appearing before the Committee today, and look forward to their testimony.”

Ros-Lehtinen Statement at Hearing on Developments in Egypt and Lebanon Part 2:
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement earlier today at a Committee hearing entitled, “Recent Developments in Egypt and Lebanon: Implications for U.S. Policy and Allies in the Broader Middle East, Part II.” Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Yesterday, we heard from a distinguished panel of experts and former Administration officials on the dramatic transformation that is currently taking place in Cairo, Beirut, and beyond. There was general agreement on the need for the U.S. to send a clear message of support to those freedom-loving Egyptians who renounce violence, who are committed to democratic governance, and who respect the security and sovereignty of all Egypt's neighbors. There were echoes of statements by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger from this past weekend that the U.S. relationship is not just with one person but with all of the Egyptian people as a whole.

“Former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, reiterated that Mubarak created the very situation that Israel and the U.S. now fear and that Mubarak’s statements that he will not run in Egypt’s scheduled September elections is ‘too late’ to enable a smooth transition.

“America’s role should be to facilitate a post-Mubarak transition in order to avert further violence and restore calm, and guard against the use of the transition process by nefarious elements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to directly or indirectly undermine Egypt’s evolution to a democratic republic.

“There is no evidence that a well-thought-out contingency plan existed in the event that Mubarak’s government became unstable or collapsed. The Wall Street Journal reported that Middle East experts, at a January 31st meeting, asked National Security Council officials, ‘Please tell me you have contingencies in case Mubarak’s regime collapses.’ The National Security Council reportedly admitted there were no such plans.

“A February 2nd report by cites a senior administration official telling ABC that the Administration was being compelled to change its strategy ‘every twelve hours…First it was ‘negotiate with the opposition,’ then events overtook that, then it was ‘orderly transition,’ …then it was ‘You [Mubarak] and your son can’t run,’… and now it’s ‘the process has to begin now.’’

“Turning to the Muslim Brotherhood, New York Times reported on February 2nd that ‘White House staff members ‘made clear that they did not rule out engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an orderly process,’’ according to one attendee.’

“Engaging the Muslim Brotherhood must not be on the table.

“This also has implications for U.S. policy toward Lebanon given statements last year by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, describing Hezbollah’s ‘evolution’ from ‘purely a terrorist organization’ to a militia to what Mr. Brennan refers to as an organization that now has members within the parliament and the cabinet.

“Has the State Department evaluated whether Lebanon now meets the statutory definition of a state-sponsor of terrorism or terrorist sanctuary given Hezbollah’s control of that government? What is the Administration’s stance on continuing to provide assistance to such a Lebanese government? From Lebanon to Egypt, what is the Administration’s stance on the Muslim Brotherhood? Beyond the general parameters referenced in Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s written statement, what are the specific components and contingencies of the U.S. strategy toward Egypt and for aiding the transitional process? If a key U.S. goal is to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over and the Muslim Brotherhood is well-funded, then shouldn’t U.S. policy seek to shift economic aid away from the Mubarak government and focus it on strengthening responsible, peaceful, democratic voices?

“The Administration’s initial approach to Egypt was clearly not keeping up with these priorities. In its first year, while driving increases in the International Affairs Budget, the Administration made significant cuts to total bilateral funding for democracy and governance programming. USAID even reportedly adopted a policy of only funding those organizations officially approved as NGOs by the Mubarak government. Repeated U.S. failure to enforce its own conditions and requirements on non-security assistance to Egypt has compounded this problem.

“What tangible economic or democratic reforms has the Government of Egypt undertaken as a result of the billions of dollars that we have provided in non-security assistance throughout the last decades? What have we received in exchange?

“This brings to mind two lessons of the Lebanese debacle that we are currently facing. The first is that elections themselves are meaningless unless they are supplemented with democratic institutions. Hezbollah’s ascendance in Lebanon was facilitated by the failure of responsible nations to insist on changing a Syrian-dictated electoral law and subsequent regulations prior to holding elections in the aftermath of the 2005 Cedar Revolution. Clear standards for participation in elections and institutions must be both articulated and implemented to ensure that destructive actors are not afforded the opportunity to hijack an incipient democratic process.

“The second lesson is we cannot afford to continue to pursue a myopic, personality-based policy that relies on ‘stability’ over institutional reform. In Lebanon, we had a short-term policy based on maintaining ‘stability,’ and we invested significant political capital with both Rafik Hariri, and -- in the wake of his assassination and ascendance of the pro-Western March 14th bloc -- his son, Saad Hariri.

“Basing the next round of elections on existing Egyptian law and regulations without clear standards for participation and a democratic institutional framework is a recipe for disaster.

“Turning to the role of the Egyptian Army, it has been reported that the U.S. is working behind the scenes to impress upon the Egyptian military the need to protect protesters and support a peaceful government transition. What is the Administration’s view on continuing security assistance to Egypt for stability and compliance with its international commitments and preparation for democratic transition, and simultaneously transferring economic aid currently going to the Mubarak government to pro-democracy groups for organizing and preparing for elections?

“The U.S. response to developments in Lebanon and Egypt have serious implications for Jordan, our vital ally Israel, and our efforts against al-Qaeda in Yemen and beyond.

“In closing, I would ask Deputy Secretary Steinberg to elaborate on, not just the country-specific policies, but the Administration’s broader regional strategy.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fact Sheet: Overview of Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act

U.S. Department of the Treasury
Press Release
Page Content
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today identified the Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL together with its subsidiaries (LCB) as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Section 311). Section 311 grants the Secretary of the Treasury the authority, upon finding that reasonable grounds exist for concluding that a foreign jurisdiction, institution, class of transaction, or type of account is of “primary money laundering concern,” to require domestic financial institutions and financial agencies to take certain “special measures” against the entity of primary money laundering concern.

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also today filed a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), in which it proposes prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent or payable-through accounts for LCB.

The USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. Taken as a whole, Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act provides the Secretary with a range of options that can be adapted to target specific money laundering and terrorist financing risks most effectively. These options provide the Treasury Department with a powerful and flexible regulatory tool to take actions to protect the U.S. financial system from specific threats.

Once the Secretary determines that a foreign financial institution is of primary money laundering concern, the Secretary has the authority to require domestic financial institutions and financial agencies to take certain special measures against the entity of primary money laundering concern.

These special measures range from requiring additional due diligence and special attention concerning particular account transactions among U.S. financial institutions to prohibiting the opening or maintenance of any correspondent or payable-through accounts. The following special measures can be imposed individually, jointly, in any combination and in any sequence:
•Recordkeeping and reporting certain transactions;
•Collection of information relating to beneficial ownership;
•Collection of information relating to certain payable-through accounts; •Collection of information relating to certain correspondent accounts; and•Prohibition or conditions on the opening or maintaining of correspondent or payable-through accounts
Treasury’s finding of primary money laundering concern is effective immediately, and U.S. financial institutions should take this information into account as part of their overall risk management programs. Concurrent with the finding, Treasury generally issues a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) explaining which special measure(s) the Secretary proposes. This is a regulatory process and subject to a public notice and comment period.

Upon review of the comments received, and in consideration of any other available information or further review, including an assessment of any subsequent remedial or ameliorative actions taken by the financial institution or jurisdiction, the Secretary can proceed with a final rule, withdraw the finding and proposed rule, or keep the matter open for further review.

In some instances, the entities of primary money laundering concern have rehabilitated their practices and implemented significant reforms to mitigate some of the risks and vulnerabilities identified as supporting the finding of primary money laundering concern. In such circumstances where the continuing risks to the U.S. financial system appeared to be diminished, Treasury has decided not to pursue a final rule implementing special measures and notice has been given to rescind the regulatory proposal. In other instances, the actions remain in force, including against the Commercial Bank of Syria, Banco Delta Asia, VEF Banka, Myanmar Mayflower Bank, and Asia Wealth Bank.

Section 311 actions are distinct from designations brought by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which are applied more broadly, prohibit transactions and trigger asset freezing obligations.

Since 2002, Treasury has utilized its authority under Section 311 against three jurisdictions and eight financial institutions and, when applicable, their affiliates, based upon various types of illicit conduct, including the facilitation of narcotics trafficking, currency counterfeiting, and laundering of funds.

The three jurisdictions were:
•Ukraine: finding rescinded in 2003
•Nauru: proposal rescinded in 2008
•Burma: rule finalized in 2004

The eight financial institutions were:
•Myanmar Mayflower Bank : rule finalized in 2004
•Asia Wealth Bank: rule finalized in 2004
•Commercial Bank of Syria (including Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank): rule finalized in 2006
•Infobank (now known as PJSC Trustbank) and its subsidiary, Belmetalnergo (Belarus) pending
•First Merchant Bank OSH, ltd. and subsidiaries (Northern Cyprus): proposal rescinded in 2008
•VEF Bank (Latvia): rule finalized in 2006
•Multibanka (Latvia): proposal rescinded in 2006
•Banco Delta Asia (Macau): rule finalized in 2007

Identified as a Primary Money Laundering Concern:
Identified today as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern:
•The Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL and its subsidiaries (LCB)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Connelly to Geagea: US to look into Cabinet line-up before settling on bilateral ties.

NNA - 8/2/2011 - A statement by the US Embassy in Beirut on Tuesday stated that the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Maura Connelly, held a one-on-one meeting today with the chief of Lebanese Forces executive committee, Samir Geagea, and tackled with him the latest political developments in Lebanon.

Connelly reiterated to Geagea that the USA believes that the formation of the new Cabinet in Lebanon is a sheer domestic process which ought to remain in the shadow of any foreign interference.

She stressed that the US is to look into the Cabinet's new line-up and ministerial statement and performance before taking any decision with respect to the bilateral ties.

The international community was crystal clear in expressing its expectation that the upcoming government should raise to the level of its international commitments, namely the full implementation if the related UNSC resolutions and the abiding by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Any Cabinet which allegedly enjoys a true representative capacity shall realize that it is impossible to relinquish the tribunal's efforts aimed at ending the impunity era in Lebanon."

Ambassador Connelly Meets with former President Gemayel, Minister Harb

February 8, 2011. Ambassador Connelly held separate meetings today with former President Amine Gemayel and caretaker Minister of Labor Boutros Harb to discuss recent political developments in Lebanon. In both meetings, Ambassador Connelly stressed the view of the United States that the formation of the government is an exclusively Lebanese process that should remain free from coercion, intimidation and threats of violence from both inside and outside Lebanon. Ambassador Connelly called on the international community to continue to support Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability, and independence as the constitutional process of forming a new government unfolds.

The nature of the United States’ relationship with the new government will be determined by that government’s composition, policy statement, and behavior. The international community has made clear its expectation that the next government of Lebanon should live up to its international obligations, including the full implementation of all Lebanon-related Security Council resolutions, and uphold Lebanon’s commitment to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The work of the Tribunal is of vital importance to the stability and security of Lebanon, and its work must continue. Any government that claims to be truly representative of all of Lebanon would find it impossible to abandon the Tribunal’s efforts to end the era of impunity for assassinations in the country.