BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- Iran’s first fuel tanker that set sail for Lebanon two weeks ago has entered the Mediterranean Sea, as a second ship began its journey to ease critical fuel shortages amid U.S. sanctions on the country.
Data from TankerTrackers, a global tanker tracking website, showed that the first ship has already entered the Mediterranean, Iranian news outlets reported on Monday.
Citing informed sources, Lebanon’s Al-Manar television network confirmed the report.
Hebrew sources said that Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah is at a state of alert in case the occupying regime of Israel makes a miscalculation against the ship.
On August 19, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned the U.S. and the occupying regime of Israel that the vessels carrying Iranian fuel would be regarded as “Lebanese territory,” as he announced the departure of the first ship from Iran.
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh cautioned against any move targeting the tankers, saying that neither the U.S. nor any other country is in a position to stop legitimate trade between Iran and Lebanon.
“We are very serious about exercising our sovereignty and everyone should know that legitimate trade in this sphere is one of the basic principles of international law,” Khatibzadeh said during a virtual press conference.
Fuel shortages in Lebanon have forced businesses and government offices to close, threatening to cause blackouts at hospitals and halt transportation and other vital sectors in the Arab country.
The plan to send Iranian fuel to Lebanon is seen as a watershed in breaking U.S. sanctions, which have targeted both countries.
Just a few hours after Nasrallah’s August 19 announcement, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea claimed that Washington would help Lebanon implement a plan to transfer Egyptian gas to Lebanon for power generation.
The Hezbollah leader later derided Shea’s plan as an act of “selling illusions to the Lebanese,” saying even if implemented, it could take a year to import gas from Egypt to Lebanon.
Khatibzadeh said the Lebanese are an affluent people and do not need donations from others, adding “some countries should stop politicizing the issues and allow the Lebanese people to meet their needs”.
In remarks on Friday, Nasrallah announced that a deal was reached with Tehran to import a third fuel-loaded tanker to ease crippling shortages in the country.
“The coming days will prove those doubtful about the shipments arriving with fuel wrong ... and our words will be clear when the first vessel reaches Lebanon,” he said in a televised speech.
He also said the country’s economic crisis was the result of an economic siege imposed by the U.S., stressing that the so-called Caesar sanctions by Washington on Syria had also harmed Lebanon.
“Go ahead and give Lebanon an exemption for Iranian gasoline and diesel ... go ahead and give Lebanon an exemption from Caesar,” Nasrallah said, addressing Washington in his speech.
During his press conference last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh voiced Iran’s readiness to sell fuel to the Lebanese government in addition to the country’s businessmen.
The sales will continue as long as Iran has a customer in Lebanon and there is demand for fuel there, he said.
Making a reference to plans to provide Lebanon with fuel from other countries, the Iranian spokesman said Monday other producers should not hesitate if they can alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.
“Neither the U.S. nor any other country is above law to stop the legitimate trade” between Iran and Lebanon, he reiterated, adding that the sale is a decision made by the Iranian establishment.