Hezbollah ready to deliver Iranian fuel to Lebanon if shortages worsen

Insufficient supplies have hit power and water supplies and led to long queues at petrol stations

An image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on June 8, 2021, shows the leader of the Lebanese Shiite party Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location to mark the anniversary of the TV network.  / AFP / AL-MANAR TV / - / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / AL-MANAR" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Hezbollah has finalised preparations to import, store and distribute Iranian fuel if the Lebanese government fails to tackle petrol and diesel shortages, the party's leader said on Friday.

The shortages have forced motorists to queue for many hours at petrol stations across Lebanon and led to traffic jams and scuffles over sale quotas in recent weeks.

"I promised, and I am still promising, that if the Lebanese state is unable to secure gasoline and diesel, we will get it from Iran," said the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group's leader Hassan Nasrallah.

He said Hezbollah could go directly to Tehran to secure petrol and diesel without exposing Lebanon to US sanctions.

"Everything is ready ... all we need is permission to move," he said.

Shortages in diesel have led to an increase in power blackouts and cuts to water supplies, with private diesel-powered generators that used to compensate for state power rationing reducing their supply.

Lebanon’s state-owned power company has been providing up to only four hours of electricity a day in many areas, as the Central Bank is rationing its subsidies of oil imports to power electricity plants amid dwindling foreign currency reserves.

Earlier on Friday, the government announced it would partially lift subsidies on fuel imports in a bid to ease shortages but at a significant increase in cost for consumers.

The Central Bank is now expected to finance fuel imports at the rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar instead of the official exchange rate of about 1,500.

The pound has lost more than 90 per cent of its market value since Lebanon’s worst economic and financial crisis in decades unfolded in late 2019.

It was trading at a record low of 16,000 to the dollar on Friday.

The crisis, which the World Bank called one of the world's most severe since the 1850s, has plunged more than half the country's population into poverty.