Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday urged Lebanese authorities to request a US waiver for importing Iranian petrol, a move that could bring the cash-strapped country closer to Tehran’s orbit.
The Iran-backed group has for months presented Iranian fuel imports as a solution to Lebanon's energy crisis, caused by political inaction after two years of economic meltdown.
“Ask America for a waiver and open this door,” Mr Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
“The Lebanese government should request a waiver from America and Lebanese companies should be able to buy fuel oil and petrol.”
Lebanon is short on petrol as authorities struggle to secure imports, paid for in dollars. Two years of economic freefall have melted the central bank’s foreign currency reserves.
Hezbollah began smuggling Iranian fuel oil to Lebanon last month in defiance of US sanctions. The move scored the Tehran-backed group political points in the fuel-starved country.
But the shipment only cover the country's needs for a few days, Lebanese fuel importers and private generator owners have told The National
The Lebanese government denied any involvement in these operations.
Mr Nasrallah said Hezbollah would continue to bring Iranian fuel to Lebanon for at least another month and would stop when the waiver was requested.
The armed group wields great influence on Lebanese life.
Lebanon could access billions of dollars in loans and debt relief from international lenders by introducing financial and economic reforms.
The Lebanese political elite has been criticised by the international community for corruption and mismanagement.
Mr Nasrallah’s request comes days after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met Lebanese leaders in Beirut last week.
Mr Amirabdollahian said that Tehran was ready to build two power plants in Lebanon and rebuild Beirut’s port after a deadly explosion last year, should the government request its help.
The US has responded to the Iranian fuel shipment with a proposal to supply Lebanon with electricity through Jordan and Syria, and with the help of Egyptian gas.
US undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland is expected in Beirut this week.