BEIRUT, June 25 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday repeated pledges to import Iranian fuel should shortages across the country persist, saying that all logistical steps for that possibility were complete.
Nasrallah, who heads the Iranian-backed armed Lebanese group, said earlier in June Iran could supply fuel to Lebanon in local pounds, avoiding a foreign currency crunch.
For weeks worsening fuel shortages on the back of Lebanon’s deepening financial crisis have forced motorists to queue for hours for very little gasoline.
“I want to stress that I promised and I’m still promising … if we have to go to Iran to get gasoline and fuel oil we will, even if it causes a problem,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Earlier on Friday caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab approved a decision to import fuel at a weaker Lebanese pound-to-dollar exchange rate, in effect decreasing the subsidy on gasoline.
“Everything is ready….all we need is permission to move,” Nasrallah said, adding that this would not be done through the central bank in order to avoid violating U.S. sanctions aimed at choking off Iranian oil exports.
Asked about how the United States would react were Iranian shipments to arrive at Beirut ports, U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea had earlier told local broadcaster al Jadeed earlier that that was not a viable solution to the problem.
“What Iran is looking for is some kind of satellite state that they can exploit to pursue their agenda,” she said.
Lebanon’s long fuel lines have caused squabbles amongst motorists where gunshots were fired in several incidents.
On Friday, Nasrallah warned of civil violence.
“In all honesty, if you shoot at each other at gas stations, that doesn’t solve the crisis,” he said.
“There is a large number of crises in Lebanon but we have the blessing of security and civil peace.”
(Reporting By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)