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Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Lebanon's Hezbollah says will import Iran fuel if shortages persist

Hezbollah, long designated a terrorist organisation by the US, is a major political player in Lebanon and is closely aligned with regional Shia powerhouse Iran

AFP , Tuesday 8 Jun 2021
Nasrallah
An image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on June 8, 2021, shows the leader of the Lebanese Shiite party Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location to mark the anniversary of the TV network AFP
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The head of Lebanon's powerful Shia movement Hezbollah said Tuesday that the country could soon be forced to rely on fuel imports from Iran, amid an ongoing economic collapse.

Lebanon has been facing increasingly severe fuel shortages in recent months, with long queues at service stations and some drivers waiting more than an hour to buy even small quantities of supplies.

Describing the situation as humiliating, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called on authorities to take a "courageous decision" and override their "fear" of the US to import fuel supplies from Iran, a country under hefty American sanctions.

If the Lebanese state fails to take action, "we, within Hezbollah, will go to Iran, negotiate with the Iranian government... and buy vessels full of petrol and fuel oil and bring them to Beirut port," Nasrallah said.

"Let the Lebanese state (dare to) prevent the delivery of petrol and fuel oil to the Lebanese people!" he said, adding, "We can no longer tolerate these scenes of humiliation."

Hezbollah, long designated a terrorist organisation by the US, is a major political player in Lebanon and is closely aligned with regional Shia powerhouse Iran.

Washington slapped punitive sanctions on Tehran under former president Donald Trump, after he unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

Trump's successor President Joe Biden favours returning to the nuclear deal and Vienna has hosted indirect negotiations to that end, but sanctions seeking to block Iran from exporting fuel remain in place.

In late 2019, Lebanon plunged into political and economic crisis, with huge street protests against an elite deemed beholden to sectarian interests. The country has been without a government for the past 10 months.

The crisis is also eating away at the country's dwindling foreign currency reserves which have so far funded subsidies on key goods such as fuel, flour and medicine.

The local currency has lost around 85 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.

The World Bank last week said the country's financial crisis was one of the world's worst since the mid-19th century.

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