BEIRUT: Lebanon must explore all options to rescue the country’s economy, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Tuesday, stressing that turning to the East for financial assistance does not mean turning against the West.
“We are open to help from any country in the world except Israel,” Nasrallah said, adding, “Even the US, which is an enemy can help us.”
In a previous speech addressing US sanctions, the Hezbollah leader said that he had “confirmed information” that Chinese companies were willing to inject money into Lebanon amid the worst financial crisis since the Civil War. The national currency has lost over 85 percent of its value on the parallel market.
A Syria sanctions bill called the “Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act of 2019” went into effect in June, authorizing sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals doing business with the Syrian regime or helping it in postwar reconstruction. Nasrallah had previously said the bill was an American attempt to “starve Lebanon,” and that the country should look East for assistance.
Addressing various accusations of attempting to change Lebanon’s economic structure, Nasrallah said: “Some have accused us of trying to change Lebanon's economic structure by turning to China, to make it communist or socialist. This is not true.”
Nasrallah said that the idea of turning East for assistance was a result of delays in critical negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.
He stressed that Lebanon “should not stick to only one path and should not await the outcome of negotiations with the IMF without seeking other choices, because these talks might take time of fail.”
Nasrallah also denied claims that Hezbollah was attempting to turn Lebanon into an “Iranian model.”
“All we said was that we have an opportunity to purchase fuel and petroleum products from a friend called Iran in exchange for Lebanese pounds,” he explained.
Nasrallah added that Hezbollah won’t be an obstacle if the US chooses to help Lebanon. “We are not seeking to cut off ‘Western oxygen’ from anyone in Lebanon,” he stressed.
“All we mean by turning eastward is that since France won't provide CEDRE funds and while the US is imposing sanctions, and while Arab countries won't help for their own reasons, we should accept help from whoever offers,” he explained.
He thanked the Iraqi delegation that arrived in Lebanon last week for their cooperation with the country, calling Iraq “a great opportunity for Lebanon.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab Friday discussed the import of Iraqi fuel to the Lebanese market, during a meeting with an Iraqi delegation on economic cooperation between the two countries.
“Openness toward Iraq, China, Iran and other countries gives hope to the Lebanese,” he said, adding that cooperation with different countries would send “a strong message to Americans and others that the country has other options.”
The Hezbollah leader also took the opportunity to call for national unity to get through Lebanon’s economic crisis.
“Our current situation requires unity among all Lebanese,” Nasrallah said, stressing: “Economic collapse or starvation doesn’t affect only one area of Lebanon or one group.”
“One should think of all those living on Lebanese soil,” Nasrallah said, which includes Palestinian and Syrian refugees as well as foreign workers.