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Hezbollah’s import of Iranian fuel into Lebanon perplexed US admin, says deputy chief

Lebanese Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem (File photo by AFP)

The deputy secretary general of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah says the group’s import of Iranian fuel into Lebanon perplexed the US administration and its siege on Lebanon.

In an interview with al-Manar TV Channel on Friday, Sheikh Naim Qassem said the Iranian fuel shipments prompted Washington to approve the project of providing Lebanon with Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity via Syria despite its sanctions against Damascus. 

Sheikh Qassem stressed that Hezbollah will continue to import Iranian fuel as long as the US siege on Lebanon remains in place.

Earlier this month, energy ministers from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt came together in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where they agreed that Lebanon, which is going through crippling fuel shortages, would import Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity via Syria.

The United States, with the intention of countering what it calls Iranian influence in Lebanon, also supported the agreement, with US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea announcing that some of what are known as the Caesar Act sanctions against Syria could be amended to deal with the fuel transports.

The plan came weeks after Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced the import of Iranian fuel to help Lebanon weather serious fuel shortages. The Iranian fuel shipments also pass through Syria.

The United States has imposed sanctions against Lebanon to pressure the country over the influence Hezbollah wields in its political and military sectors.

Early this month, the first ship arrived in Syria to be transferred to Lebanon via land. Hezbollah announced on Friday that the second ship has also arrived in Syria.

Both Hezbollah and Iran have sternly warned the US and Israel against any move against the fuel tankers.

Hezbollah is ready to confront any Israeli aggression on Lebanon, even if this leads to an all-out war, Sheikh Qassem said, adding that the deterrence formula prevents the Zionist regime from committing such a folly.

According to Sheikh Qassem, the fuel imports were aimed at relieving Lebanese people who are suffering from the ongoing crisis.

He said the Lebanese authorities rejected to approve the process for fear of US sanctions.

He also said the Lebanese resistance group will act against any Israeli infringement on Lebanon’s maritime borders and rights after the government addresses the legal side of the issue.

‘Our weapons are locked and loaded’

Sheikh Qassem also said any attack by Israel on Lebanon will be met with a response from Hezbollah.

“Any Israeli attack on Lebanon will be met with a response from Hezbollah. Even if [Lebanon] is dragged into a war, we will face the war. Our weapons are locked and loaded. If we need more [weapons], we have our ways to rearm ourselves,” he said.

The Hezbollah official declared that Hezbollah will continue to bring Iranian fuel as long as Lebanon’s central bank and Lebanese fuel companies do not supply Lebanon’s fuel needs.

“We are waiting for the Lebanese government’s position on the indirect negotiations with [the Israeli enemy] regarding the border issue, and when our turn arrives, we will do our duty,” he added.

The remarks came after Lebanese President Michelle Aoun told the UN General Assembly that Lebanon was ready for a resumption of the indirect talks on Lebanon’s maritime dispute with Israel in line with international law.

“We remain gravely concerned at Israel’s repeated threats against Lebanon, and more recently Israel’s plans to carry out oil and gas exploration activities along the contested maritime border,” Aoun said.

“We condemn any and all attempts to violate the limits of our exclusive economic zone and we maintain our right to the oil and gas found within that zone,” he added.

Lebanon is odds with Israel over the latter's encroachment on the Arab nation's territorial waters in the Mediterranean, which hold valuable gas reserves.

Since October, they have been holding on-and-off US-mediated talks in an effort to resolve the issue.

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