Bank chief slams gov’t criticism over ending fuel subsidies, as Lebanese army deploys at gas pumps to curb hoarding.
A shipment of Iranian fuel oil will be setting sail for Lebanon, organised by the Lebanese group Hezbollah which has warned its US and Israeli adversaries the ship will be considered Lebanese soil as soon as it sails.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that further ships would follow to help the Lebanese people who are enduring crippling fuel shortages as a result of the country’s two-year-long financial meltdown.
“We don’t want to get into a challenge with anyone, we don’t want to get into a problem with anyone. We want to help our people,” Nasrallah said. “I say to the Americans and the Israelis that the boat that will sail within hours from Iran is Lebanese territory.”
“God willing, this ship and others will arrive safely,” Nasrallah said, in a televised address commemorating Ashura, when Shia Muslims mark the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Hussein in battle in 680.
Nasrallah, whose armed group was founded in 1982, did not say where or when the ship would arrive, saying this would be discussed when it reached the Mediterranean.
In April, Reuters reported that Hezbollah was preparing fuel storage space in Syria as part of its efforts to deal with the financial crisis in Lebanon, citing senior officials familiar with the efforts.
The group has fighters and influence in neighbouring Syria, where Hezbollah has fought in support of President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war.
Hoarding fuel and gas
Lebanon’s army seized fuel from petrol stations on Saturday to curb hoarding amid crippling shortages, as the central bank chief stood firm on his decision to scrap fuel subsidies.
Compounding the country’s crisis, a top private hospital said it may have to close due to power outages caused by shortages of diesel, warning this could cause hundreds of deaths.
Foreign currency reserves are rapidly depleting, forcing the central bank to scale down funding for imports in an effort to shore up the little money Lebanon has left.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, and 78 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.