TEHRAN -- Iran said on
Monday it is ready to ship more fuel to Lebanon if needed, a day after the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said more vessels carrying Iranian fuel would sail soon to help ease the country’s fuel shortage.
“We sell our oil and its products based on our own decisions and the needs of our friend. Iran is ready to send fuel again to Lebanon if needed,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in an online weekly news conference.
“Certainly we cannot stand the suffering of the Lebanese people.”
On Sunday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the first vessel shipping Iranian fuel to Lebanon, which last Thursday the group announced was about to leave Iran, had already sailed.
Last week Iran’s Nournews news website reported that the fuel shipments to Lebanon were all purchased by a group of Lebanese businessmen.
“We announce our readiness to sell fuel to the Lebanese government in addition to the fuel purchased by the Lebanese businessmen, if the Lebanese government is willing,” said Khatibzadeh.
Pro-Western groups in Lebanon have warned of dire consequences from the purchase, saying it risked sanctions being imposed on a country whose economy has been in meltdown for nearly two years.
U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, reimposed in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump exited Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers, aim to cut its crude sales to zero. Hezbollah has also been targeted by U.S. sanctions.
On Sunday, Nasrallah dismissed as “illusions” a reported United States-backed initiative to ease Lebanon’s energy crisis. He said the first Iranian ship loaded with fuel was “at sea”.
“A second ship will set sail in the next few days, and it will be followed by others,” he said.
“We will continue this process as long as Lebanon needs it,” Nasrallah said. “The aim is to help all Lebanese, not just Hezbollah supporters or the Shia.”
Nasrallah said the current crisis in the country is a sign of a war waged against the resistance front, which is being led by the U.S. embassy and its ambassador in Beirut.
He said documents leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks – in addition to other leaked intelligence documents – have attested to this fact.
Nasrallah said the U.S. and other Western countries “have spent tens of billions of dollars to tarnish the image of the resistance, but they have failed.”
“The secret to our power is that we have never pursued political aspirations… We are the enemy of American hegemony. We are the enemy of the Zionist regime and the Zionist project. And we are proud of this, but they have not known this enemy, that is us,” he added.
Nasrallah said the U.S. embassy and its ambassador in Beirut interfere in all Lebanese affairs, such as the appointment of Lebanese officials and decisions made about supply of fuel and oil.
Certain politicians in Lebanon fear the U.S. more than they fear God, he added.
“They fear that Lebanon would be sanctioned should it buy fuel from Iran,” he said. “They think, out of ignorance, that if this is done, international sanctions would be imposed on Lebanon, which is not true.”
Fuel prices in Lebanon are expected to double after the country’s leaders decided on Saturday to change the exchange rate used to price petroleum products in a bid to ease crippling shortages.
The fuel crisis has left Lebanon in chaos, paralyzing basic services and sparking daily melees as people scramble for fuel.
In recent days, Lebanon’s army has seized fuel from petrol stations in an effort to curb hoarding amid shortages.
Compounding the country’s
crisis, a top private hospital said it may have to close because of 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 amid a U.S.-led siege and sanctions.