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‘Iran fuel shipments bought, paid for by Lebanese Shia businessmen’

A woman sits near a poster of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, during an event marking Resistance and Liberation Day, in Khiam, near the border with Israel, southern Lebanon, May 25, 2021. (File photo by Reuters)

A report by Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) says the fuel shipments sent by Tehran to help the Lebanese people, as announced earlier on Thursday by leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, have been paid for in advance by a group of Lebanon's Shia businesspeople.

“The Iranian fuel shipments which Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah mentioned today have been all purchased by a group of Shia Lebanese businesspeople, and they are considered their property from the moment of loading,” the report said on Thursday.

The Twitter account of Nournews, which is close to the council, also said the Iranian fuel shipments, in contrast to speculations and rumors fomented by hostile news networks, are “neither a gift nor the Lebanese government has paid for them.”

It added that the powerful measures taken by Iran and Hezbollah to shatter the economic embargo imposed on the Lebanese people, has seriously angered the enemies of the axis of resistance, who want to cast doubts on this issue by distorting relevant facts.

The report came hours after Nasrallah said earlier on Thursday that the first vessel carrying Iranian fuel would set sail for Lebanon within hours, warning Israel and the United States that the resistance group would regard the ships carrying Iranian fuel as part of the “Lebanese soil.”

The ship would be carrying diesel since it is a top priority for the Lebanese people’s livelihoods, Nasrallah said, promising that it would be followed by other ships carrying more fuel.

The Hezbollah chief had already voiced willingness on a number of occasions to import Iran’s oil to counter Lebanon’s dire fuel shortage, in case the government fails to deal with the crisis.

On Sunday, he asserted that Hezbollah would “definitely” import fuel from Iran, and would do so “in broad daylight, not at night.”

The small Mediterranean country has, since 2019, been paralyzed by a major financial crisis, which has cut the value of its currency by more than 90 percent, eliminated jobs, and made banks freeze accounts.

Nasrallah’s Thursday comments come as tensions run high between Israel and Iran in the aftermath of an alleged attack against the Israeli-managed Mercer Street tanker off Oman in July, after which Israel, the US and Britain were quick to blame Iran and threatened a “response.” Tehran, however, rejected the accusation as “baseless” and “childish.”

Following Nasrallah’s announcement on Thursday, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri reacted to the move, saying it risked sanctions being imposed on the country.

In a series of tweets, Hariri expressed dismay over Nasrallah’s recognition of the ships as the Lebanese territory and claimed the country could suffer the fate of Venezuela, which is under tough economic sanctions.

Nasrallah, however, said in his Thursday remarks that Iran has refrained from interfering in Lebanese affairs, despite standing by the side of the Lebanese people throughout the years.

The US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, also told Al Arabiya English that Lebanon didn’t need Iranian tankers, claiming that “a whole bunch” of fuel ships off the coast are waiting to unload.

Back in June, Shea sparked outrage after she said Iranian fuel shipments to Beirut to make up for the severe shortage in the country was not a “viable solution” to the problem, claiming that eradicating corruption from the Lebanese energy and electricity sectors would resolve “half of the problem immediately.”

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