The Financial Times reports:
Lebanon's economy could be dealt a blow if the opposition coalition, dominated by Hizbollah, wins next month's parliamentary elections. The warning comes from a senior figure in the ruling pro-western bloc, who suggests support from key financial allies could dry up.
Lebanon's economy has so far escaped the brunt of the global financial crisis, thanks to tight banking regulations, but it is saddled with a debt that reaches more than 160 per cent of gross domestic product.
Repeated political crises have required Lebanon to seek sustained foreign support. In the summer of 2007, after a month-long Israeli offensive against Hizbollah, donors pledged $7.6bn (€5.4bn, £4.8bn) in aid, with Saudi Arabia providing $1bn. Many of the pledges, however, were made to lend political support to the March 14 alliance and help it confront Hizbollah.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future movement, the largest party in the March 14 coalition, raised doubts over the continued outside support for Lebanon if the Syria and Iran-backed Hizbollah and its allies won the election.
"If the international community thinks of helping [Lebanon], will it help an experienced political party that has pulled Lebanon from disaster to economic prosperity or will it trust an alliance like the 8th of March?" he said.
"We have an economic agenda and we believe that we can bring a lot of good things to Lebanon, whereas if the other party, the 8th of March, win . . . the economy of Lebanon is in question."
Walid Jumblatt, another leader of the parliamentary majority and the chief of the Druze minority, also warned that a March 8 victory "will have a huge impact on the economy".
"The Saudis? The Gulf? Who is going to support our economy? It is already very fragile, it is already $50bn in debt," he said.
In an apparent attempt to limit the economic damage, Hizbollah has said it would form a national unity government. But Mr Hariri says he has no intention of joining such a government.
"Hizbollah knows this and says that it wants [the] Future [movement] in the government," says Mr [Paul] Salem [director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre]. "Future has contacts that could make life difficult - just as March 8 has military means."
The IMF has denied reports that it had discussed possible loans with Hizballah ahead of the country's elections. The Dailystar writes:
"The IMF has not negotiated with members or sympathizers [of Hizballah] in Lebanon over a possible loan," the IMF said in a statement. It said an IMF mission visiting Beirut in March for annual consultations on economic policies met with the country's main political parties as part of standard outreach activities that also include talks with nongovernmental groups.
During the talks, it met with Abed al-Halim Fadlalah, then deputy director of an economic research center that has close ties with Hizbullah, to explain the IMF's visit and "gather support toward economic reforms," the IMF said.
"By no means were future Fund arrangements discussed," it added.
Meanwhile stateside, from Reuters via the Dailystar,
The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it will freeze the assets in the United States of two individuals linked to Hizbullah and prohibit US banks and consumers from making business deals with them. The US Treasury said in a statement that it had named Kassim Tajideen from Sierra Leone and Abd al-Menhem Qubaysi of Lebanon under an executive order that targets terrorists and those giving financial or material support to terrorism.
The two are said to be Africa-based supporters of Hizbullah.
The Treasury statement said Tajideen is a financial contributor to Hizbullah and operates a network of businesses in Lebanon and Africa. He was arrested in Belgium in connection with fraud, money laundering and diamond smuggling.
Qubaysi was described as an Ivory Coast-based Hizbullah supporter and the personal representative of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Qubaysi helped establish an official Hizbullah foundation in the Ivory Coast that has been used to recruit members for the resitance group's military ranks in Lebanon, the Treasury statement said.
Finally, Naharnet notes that,
The United States, whose IMF share gives it veto power, has repeatedly said that it will have no dealings with Hizbullah.