France and EU ponder sanctions for Lebanese politicians, diplomats say

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France and the European Union are putting together proposals that could see asset freezes and travel bans imposed on Lebanese politicians to push them finally to agree on a government to rescue their country from economic collapse.

An explosion last August destroyed entire neighbourhoods of Beirut, and the government that resigned as a result has not been replaced, just as decades of patronage, corruption and mismanagement have left Lebanon almost bankrupt.

France has spearheaded efforts to help the territory it once administered, but has so far failed to force its many sectarian groups to agree on a cabinet, let alone start the reforms that might unlock foreign aid.

As many senior Lebanese politicians have homes, bank accounts and investments in the EU, and send their children to universities there, a withdrawal of that access could be a lever to focus minds.

“Concrete proposals are being developed against the very people who have abandoned the general interest in favour of their personal interests,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers on Tuesday.

“If certain political actors don’t assume their responsibilities, we won’t hesitate to assume ours.”

Two diplomats said Le Drian’s staff were investigating how the European Union could set up a sanctions regime involving travel bans and asset freezes.

At an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on March 22, he also asked EU High Representative Josep Borrell to work on an options paper, a senior EU member state diplomat in Brussels said.

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