Lebanon is preparing to send a delegation to Iran for talks on acquiring free fuel to ease power outages without being exposed to US sanctions, two government sources said on Wednesday.
If the deal goes through, the fuel deliveries would be Iran’s first directly to the state after it previously sent some to its ally Hezbollah, a powerful armed movement that is part of Lebanon’s coalition government.
Lebanon has struggled with outages for decades but its economic meltdown since 2019 has drained state coffers, slowing down imports of fuel for government plants.
That has left most of the country with just one or two hours of state-provided electricity per day and forced households to rely on subscriptions to private generators that have skyrocketed as global fuel prices spiked.
Iran’s ambassador in Beirut, Mojtaba Amani, has proposed an Iranian “gift” of fuel to the Lebanese state, the two government sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We are working on this being a donation and not a purchase so that we can avoid sanctions,” one of the sources said.
The United States has heavily sanctioned Iran’s energy sector, which means any party engaging in a financial transaction with it could be subject to secondary sanctions.
The second government source said Amani had extended the offer from Iran to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who provided the envoy with the specifications of fuel grade that would be needed to run Lebanese power plants.
“Based on that, Mikati asked Energy Minister Walid Fayad to prepare a technical delegation to discuss the technical details with officials in Tehran,” the source said.
The first source said the delegation would be in Tehran in the coming days.
An Iranian official told Reuters that a delegation from Lebanon would be in Tehran shortly “to discuss various issues,” without elaborating. “We have repeatedly expressed Iran’s readiness to help Lebanon resolve its fuel crisis,” the official said.
Last year, Iran sent fuel to Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and some other Western nations. That fuel was shipped to Syria and then brought into Lebanon in trucks to try and avoid sanctions.
The United States did not take any action over that last year. The US Embassy had no immediate comment on Wednesday.
The head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly urged Lebanon’s government to turn to Iran for fuel to ease its energy crisis.
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