A tanker carrying oil from Iraq near Lebanon's Al Zahrani power plant in 2021. Iraq has approved a new delivery of fuel. AFP
A tanker carrying oil from Iraq near Lebanon's Al Zahrani power plant in 2021. Iraq has approved a new delivery of fuel. AFP

Iraq approves fuel delivery to prevent nationwide blackout in Lebanon



Iraq has approved the delivery of fuel to two Lebanese power plants, averting the risk of a nationwide state electricity blackout in the energy-deprived nation.

A government official with Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (Somo) told The National on Thursday that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani approved the fuel shipment. “We will unload two gas oil tankers at Al Zahrani and Deir Ammar plants,” the official said.

The Lebanese government said the approval came after a phone call between Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Mr Al Sudani, in a bid to prevent the potential blackout.

The two leaders discussed the fuel shipment during their call, a statement from Mr Mikati's office said.

Lebanon, which has few natural resources and is suffering from an economic crisis, imports heavy fuel oil from Iraq under a swap deal signed in 2021.

Because the heavy fuel supplied by Iraq does not meet Lebanon’s fuel specifications, the deal allows Beirut to swap it on the international market – through traders who make a profit – for other types of oil suitable for its power plants.

However, payment issues from Lebanon to Iraq had halted the delivery process.

The exchange rates at which Iraq will access the funds as well as the exact nature of services are unclear.

As a result, Iraq has yet to access the $550 million worth of goods or services, the value of the first year’s imports, deposited in Lebanon's central bank.

State electricity in Lebanon is available for a maximum of around four hours a day. Those who can afford it rely on expensive and harmful diesel-guzzling private generators to fill the gap, although very few provide power for 24 hours.

Lebanon has long struggled with providing enough power to its people, but the problem has been exacerbated by a devastating economic crisis that began in 2019.

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Updated: July 11, 2024, 12:27 PM