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BEIRUT - Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's armed Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, said on Monday that a first ship carrying Iranian fuel oil to help Lebanon through its financial crisis had docked in Syria on Sunday.
Nasrallah had announced last month that he had organised purchases of fuel from Iran, Hezbollah's main backer but subject to U.S. economic sanctions, to ease a crippling shortage.
Nasrallah thanked Syria for receiving the shipment and facilitating its transfer, and said it would reach Lebanon by Thursday.
"We were told that the arrival of the vessel here (in Lebanon) would harm the country and we don't want to harm the country so we went for another option," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Daily life has been almost paralysed as fuel dries up because Lebanon lacks the dollars to pay for it.
The state-owned power company is generating only minimal electricity, leaving businesses and households almost entirely dependent on small, private generators that run on fuel oil.
A financial crisis has wiped 90% off the value of the Lebanese pound since 2019, pushed food prices up by more than 550%, and propelled three-quarters of the population into poverty. The World Bank has called it one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
Nasrallah on Monday said a second ship with fuel oil would arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas in a few days, with a third and fourth, respectively carrying gasoline and fuel oil, also due.
"We could have got a whole fleet of vessels ... but we didn't because we don't want to aggravate anyone," he said.
Hezbollah's opponents in Lebanon say the purchase risks bringing down sanctions on a country already on its last legs, especially as Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
The Donald Trump administration announced in 2018 that it aimed to reduce Iran's oil sales to zero after withdrawing from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six global powers.
For its part, the United States is backing an effort to address Lebanon's power shortages by bringing in Egyptian gas via Jordan and Syria.
Nasrallah also praised an official trip by Lebanese officials to Damascus this month to try to bring that about.
He said the first Iranian fuel oil shipment was priced in Lebanese pounds and would go to hospitals, orphanages and old people's homes.
"Our aim is not trade or profit," he said. "Our aim is to alleviate the suffering of the people." REUTERS