Ministry denies exporting fuel to Syria from refineries

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Energy and Water Ministry claimed Tuesday that no kerosene or red diesel was being exported to Syria from refineries in Tripoli and Zahrani.

In a statement to the media, the ministry described reports of oil and fuel smuggling into Syria as fabrications for purely political objectives.

The ministry added that Syrian tanker trucks seen loading fuel in the Zahrani area were being filled by a nearby private oil company and not by the Zahrani refinery itself.

“Oil and fuel re-export is done in accordance with the proper commercial and administrative rules and does not require the prior approval of the minister,” the statement said.

It stressed that Lebanon was under no obligation to adhere to sanctions on Syria because these were nonbinding.

“For this reason anyone can spot long queues of trucks on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. These trucks carry all types of goods,” the ministry explained.

Some oil companies have said that Lebanon has been exporting large volumes of fuel oil to Syria, noting that most of these shipments were being used by the Syrian army.

The companies have warned that such sales could anger the international community, which could apply sanctions on Lebanon and Lebanese banks.

But some legal experts have argued that the sales are legal the Security Council has not prohibited Lebanon or any other country from conducting such business with the Syrian regime.

The Security Council has not endorsed any sanctions banning fuel exports to Syria, as China and Russia have vetoed any such action.

There is concern, however, that part of the revenues generated from oil smuggling to Syria could enter the Lebanese banking system, putting these lenders under the scrutiny of the U.S. treasury.

Lebanese merchants used to smuggle Syrian oil and fuel into Lebanon before the conflict erupted nearly two years ago.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2013, on page 5.




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