Iran said Sunday it was willing to sell fuel to Lebanon’s government to help ease shortages, days after the first delivery of Iranian fuel arranged by the Hezbollah terror group entered the country.
“If the Lebanese government wants to buy fuel from us to resolve the problems faced by its population, we will supply it,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.
He told a news conference that the Islamic Republic had already sold fuel to a “Lebanese businessman,” without naming Hezbollah.
Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian-backed terror group’s leader, had promised in August that he would bring fuel from Iran to alleviate the rationing that is sowing chaos across the country, in defiance of US sanctions.
Lebanon defaulted on its debt last year and can no longer afford to import key goods, including petrol for vehicles and diesel to power generators, during almost round-the-clock power cuts.
On Thursday, dozens of tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel arranged by Hezbollah arrived in Lebanon and were due to fill the tanks of fuel distribution firm owned by Hezbollah, which has been under US sanctions.
Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Mikati had told CNN that the shipment “was not approved by the Lebanese government.”
He said he was “saddened” by “the violation of Lebanese sovereignty.”
The country of six million is experiencing its worst-ever financial crisis, with a currency that has lost around 90 percent of its value, people’s savings trapped in banks, and qualified labor emigrating in droves.
The Lebanese pound has slightly increased in value from around 18,000 to 14,000 to the dollar on the black market since the new cabinet was announced on Friday, according to the monitoring website lirarate.org, but still lingers far below its official peg of 1,500.
Utility power is only available a handful of hours a day, while the Lebanese are struggling to find petrol, bread, and medicine.
Under another initiative to bring some power to the country, energy ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon earlier this month agreed to a plan to bring Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity to Lebanon via Syria.
The US has backed the plan and given rare approval for the Arab neighbors to escape punishment under sanctions targeting the Syrian regime.