Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has said his group is prepared to buy fuel shipments directly from Iran, as a worsening energy crisis threatens to plunge Lebanon into darkness.
Speaking in a broadcast earlier this week, Nasrallah said Hezbollah could go directly to its patron Tehran to buy fuel in Lebanese Lira, as the Lebanese government struggles to release enough dollars to import fuel.
“We, Hezbollah, can go to Iran and negotiate with the Iranian government and buy shipments of fuel,” he said.
Lebanon’s energy sector is on its knees, with the government unable to release enough dollars to import fuel. Blackouts and fuel rationing have become increasingly common.
Even the country’s private generator cartels, long a fail-safe against cuts on the national energy grid, have been forced to ration hours of operation in recent weeks, while meandering queues outside of petrol stations have become the norm across the country.
The Head of the Association of Power Generator Owners, Abdo Saadeh said this week that private generator owners would begin switching off their diesel generators for up to five hours per day.
In his address, Nasrallah described the queues as "scenes of humiliation,” that “people should not bear."
The energy pains have been exacerbated by stalled government formation talks – the country has been without a working executive since August, when the government resigned after the Beirut port blast, something Nasrallah also addressed in his speech.
"Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people's voices and look with pain at the cars queuing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication," he said.
In May, the country lost a quarter of its power supply overnight after two energy-generating barges owned Turkish company Karpowership cut off their supplies over unpaid bills totalling more than $100 million.
On Tuesday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun approved an exceptional $197 million loan to import fuel just days before the country was set to be plunged into total darkness. Yet the move was widely seen as delaying the crisis, with no sustainable long-term solution forthcoming. In some parts of the country, electricity supply from the state grid is now down to just half an hour per day.
Addressing concerns that he was in poor health, after he coughed and sputtered through his last speech on May 25, Nasrallah reassured followers and dispelled rumours.
"A human being is a human being, you get sick or tired sometimes," he said.
"Some people killed us off and some started looking for a successor … I reassure them."