Iran ready to help rebuild Beirut port and build power plants, foreign minister says

Beirut backs Tehran's efforts to mend regional ties, says President Michel Aoun

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Thursday said his country was ready to help Lebanon rebuild Beirut port and set up two power plants, if it is asked.

Mr Amirabdollahian made the comments during an official visit to Lebanon, where he met President Michel Aoun, a key ally of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the armed group’s Shiite ally, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

It is the second high-profile visit by a foreign dignitary to Lebanon since the new government was formed. Mr Amirabdollahian later held talks with his counterpart Abdullah Bou Habib.

“We are fully prepared to restore Beirut port if the Lebanese side makes the request,” he said, after meeting the Lebanese foreign minister. The Iranian official added that Iranian companies were also ready to build two power plants, with 1,000 megawatts capacity, to provide crisis-hit Lebanon with electricity within 18 months.

Mr Aoun said the Iranian foreign minister expressed his country's strong support for Lebanon, which in turn, backs Iran's efforts to mend ties among regional players, especially Arab nations.

Later, in a veiled criticism of the US, Mr Amirabdollahian accused foreign powers of undermining the region.

“Regional issues should be addressed by the regional countries themselves,” he said, after meeting Mr Berri. “Foreign forces” were creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, he said.

During his meeting with the Iranian official, Mr Mikati said Lebanon welcomed any assistance “as long as it falls within the context of preserving the notion of the state and its constitutional institutions, its role in providing security and protection, and the strengthening of its legitimate security and military forces”.

Mr Mikati welcomed any rapprochement between Iran and Arab states, which he said would reflect positively on the region and Lebanon.

The foreign minister's visit came weeks after Iran started delivering fuel to Hezbollah through Syria in defiance of US sanctions, a move that experts say reflects Iran’s growing influence in Lebanon.

Mr Mikati earlier said his government did not approve of the Iranian fuel shipments that have been transported into the country through illegal border crossings.

Hezbollah says the fuel deliveries are aimed at alleviating shortages that have hit industries in the country.

The shortages have intensified in recent months after the Central Bank cut its subsidies of fuel imports to protect its dwindling currency reserves.

The shortages have led to prolonged power cuts, prompting Lebanon’s energy minister to seek support from Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan's Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh visited Beirut last week to discuss a deal to provide electricity and gas to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.

The visit was the first by a senior foreign government official since Mr Mikati assumed his duties after a year of political paralysis that has accelerated the country's financial meltdown.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi told The National he was confident the US would allow Jordan to supply electricity to Lebanon by giving the necessary waivers from sanctions it has imposed on the Syrian regime.

Syria's energy minister said on Wednesday his government had begun repairing a power line that connects the three countries.

Updated: October 7th 2021, 3:38 PM
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