BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah repeated calls on Monday for the cabinet to seek a U.S. sanctions waiver to import Iranian fuel and alleviate crippling shortages.
Nasrallah said the government should make power shortages a priority, adding the total blackout that occurred on Saturday when Lebanon’s two largest power plants ground to a halt was like a “clinical death” for the country.
“Let the government ask for a sanctions waiver and let the Lebanese companies go and buy … and then we will withdraw from this file completely,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
The Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah group has been coordinating Iranian shipments of fuel oil and gasoline for Lebanon since August as shortages spread amid an economic meltdown, despite U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said the Iranian shipments constitute a breach of his country’s sovereignty.
Iran sends the fuel oil shipments organised by Hezbollah to the port of Baniyas in Syria and from there they are transported by truck to Lebanon. Syria is also under U.S. sanctions.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, on a visit to Beirut last week, said his country was ready to build two power plants in Lebanon, one in Beirut and the other in the south of the country, in a period of 18 months.
On Monday Nasrallah urged the cabinet to respond to his offer.
(Reporting By Laila Bassam and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)