Lebanon's central bank governor said on Tuesday Lebanese banks must comply with a new US law targeting Shi'ite group Hezbollah's finances and that failure to do so risked international isolation of the country's banking sector.
Heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is classified as a terrorist group by the United States, wields enormous political influence in Lebanon and its powerful military wing is playing a major role in the Syrian conflict.
The US Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) passed in December threatens sanctions against anyone who finances Hezbollah in a significant way.
The law has ignited an unprecedented dispute between Hezbollah and a central bank widely seen as a pillar of stability in an otherwise weak and dysfunctional Lebanese state.
Governor Riad Salameh said banks must comply with the law but that decisions to close accounts would be overseen by the central bank to ensure that the closures were justified.
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