BEIRUT (Dispatches) — The secretary general of Lebanon’s resistance Hezbollah movement said Thursday that an Iranian fuel tanker will sail toward Lebanon “within hours,” warning the occupying regime of Israel and the United States not to intercept it.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that the tanker, carrying diesel fuel, will be followed by others to help ease Lebanon’s crippling fuel shortage that has paralyzed the country for weeks.
Lebanon is going through an unprecedented economic meltdown, including a severe fuel crisis, amid U.S. sanctions.
Hours after Nasrallah’s comments, Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s office announced that U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea told him the United States would help Lebanon get electricity from Jordan and facilitate the flow of Egyptian gas through Jordan and Syria to northern Lebanon.
Shea told Aoun that negotiations were ongoing with the World Bank to pay for Egyptian gas and to fix cables and pipelines that would be used, according to the statement.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. State Department or the American Embassy in Beirut. Shea, the U.S. ambassador, spoke about the crisis in Lebanon with the English service of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV on Thursday.
In his speech, Nasrallah did not say how Lebanon would pay for the fuel. Earlier, he had said Tehran could be paid in Lebanese pounds.
“I would like to say that at the moment the tanker sails out ... it will be considered in Lebanese territory,” Nasrallah said and hit out at the West for an undeclared siege of Lebanon that triggered the current crisis.
Hezbollah and many Lebanese say the U.S. and some Persian Gulf Arab nations are punishing Lebanon.
Neighboring Syria has blamed the Zionist regime for mysterious attacks that have targeted oil tankers heading from Iran to Syria this past year.
For weeks, Lebanese have been waiting in long lines at petrol stations to fill their tanks. Diesel shortages amid severe power cuts have shut down thousands of private generators, leading to lengthy blackouts and even shortages of bread. Some hospitals have warned that patients could die because of shortages of diesel fuel that powers their generators.
The situation deteriorated dramatically last week after the central bank decided to end subsidies for fuel products. The decision will likely lead to a hike in the prices of almost all commodities in Lebanon.
Nasrallah said Hezbollah does not aim to “defy anyone,” by arranging the fuel shipment from Iran, but added that “we cannot stand idle amid the humiliation of our people whether in front of bakeries, hospitals, gas stations and darkness at night.”
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, an ally of the West and Saudi Arabia, claimed in tweets that an Iranian fuel shipment could plunge Lebanon into more conflict.
A Lebanese Sunni cleric, hoever, thanked Iran for shipping fuel to the crisis-hit country, blasting the United States for besieging the nation at the current critical juncture.
“We all heard that a ship is coming to Lebanon from Iran. Since we are strong in Lebanon ... we said that the ship is Lebanese territory so that the enemies can calculate thousands of millions of times before any attack,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Qattan, head of the Our Word and Deed Association, said.
“We will thank any country that sends us any aid ... Now we are saying thank you to Iran.”
Referring apparently to Hariri, Qattan said some people criticized Iran’s fuel shipment and warned of sanctions in a bid to satisfy the United States and the enemies of Lebanon.
“Who has benefited from the U.S. presence in Lebanon and what has it brought about for Lebanon other than a siege?” he asked.
“Some people in Lebanon want the country to be humiliated and dependent on the U.S. and the enemies, but American mercenaries must take lessons from those in Afghanistan and other states,” he added.
The U.S. and its European allies have long been seeking to mount pressure on the Lebanese authorities through sanctions in a bid to force the formation of a Western-friendly administration.