Hezbollah chief promises more Iranian fuel for Lebanon

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Beirut (AFP)

The Hezbollah leader in Lebanon on Sunday promised Iranian fuel deliveries would arrive “in the days to come” to help resolve the besieged country’s severe shortages.

For the second time in four days, Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address that fuel shipments would leave the Islamic Republic for Lebanon.

Nasrallah also called “illusions” a US-backed initiative to alleviate Lebanon’s energy crisis.

On Sunday alone, fuel prices shot up to 70% after a further cut in subsidies, putting more pressure on those struggling to make ends meet.

The cost of hydrocarbons in Lebanon has now roughly tripled in the two months since the central bank began cutting support for imports.

The latest drop, which is expected to push up the prices of other key commodities, comes on top of the economic crisis in the Mediterranean country, one of the worst in the world since the 1850s.

Fuel shortages have forced businesses and government offices to shut down, even threatening power outages at hospitals.

In his first televised address Thursday, Nasrallah announced the departure “in the next few hours” of a fuel-laden vessel for Lebanon in defiance of US sanctions against Iran.

On Sunday, Nasrallah said the first Iranian ship loaded with fuel was “at sea”.

“A second ship will set sail in the coming days, and it will be followed by others,” he said.

Hezbollah, a close ally of Iran identified as a terrorist group by much of the West, is a major political force in Lebanon but its leaders are under US sanctions.

“We will continue this process as long as Lebanon needs it,” Nasrallah said.

“The goal is to help all Lebanese, (not just) Hezbollah supporters or Shiites.”

Questions remain about how Iranian fuel shipments might reach their destination.

Since February of this year, Iran and its nemesis Israel have been engaged in a “shadow war” in which ships linked to each nation have been attacked in the waters around the Gulf in direct trade.

The Lebanese presidency, in an apparent response to Nasrallah’s claim on Thursday, later quoted the US ambassador as saying that efforts were underway with Egypt and Jordan to ease Lebanon’s energy problems.

Nasrallah said on Sunday “Welcome to Egyptian gas, welcome to Jordanian electricity – and welcome to any effort that means we will have electricity in Lebanon.”

He called “promises, illusions” the involvement of the American ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea in the initiative.

“But if these promises come true, that’s okay. We don’t mind. On the contrary,” Nasrallah said.

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