Lebanon C.Bank says can keep currency, rates stable

Reuters, Monday 24 Jan 2011

Bank issues statement to combat what it says are rumours that have emerged as a result of the current political crisis, assuring that interest and exchange rates are stable

Lebanon's Central Bank said on Sunday it can ensure exchange rate and interest rate stability despite the political crisis following the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri's government earlier this month.

In a statement, it said Central Bank governor Riad Salameh "confirms that the policy of preserving the pound's exchange rate remains ... and that the Central Bank is working normally to ensure the liquidity of the Lebanese pound and US dollar and to continue the stability in interest rates, and (it confirms that the bank) is able to do that."

The statement was issued after Salameh met Hariri, who is now caretaker premier, ahead of consultations on Monday to name a prime minister to lead a new government.

The Central Bank statement denied what it said were reports that the meeting had been held at Salameh's urgent request, saying the appointment had been fixed in advance.

It said it had issued its statement because "the current political climate opens up scope for rumours, including those relating to the stability of the exchange rate of the pound."

Caretaker Finance Minister Raya Hassan told Reuters last week that economic growth and reforms could suffer if political deadlock continues between Hariri and Hezbollah, which toppled his government on 12 January in a dispute over an indictment in the 2005 killing of Hariri's father.

Lebanon's high foreign currency reserves, which amount to around $31 billion, provide a significant line of defence for Lebanon's exchange rate, which is set in a range between 1,501 and 1,514 pounds to the US dollar.

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