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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Mohamed Choucair - Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon: Gas Import Agreement from Egypt Disrupted by Unsecured WB Financing

Électricité du Liban building (Asharq Al-Awsat)

An agreement to transport Egyptian gas to Lebanon via Syria is currently disrupted by Lebanon’s failure to meet the conditions for obtaining a World Bank loan and Washington’s reluctance to give an official approval confirming that the deal is not affected by the Caesar Act, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.

They said Lebanon continues to suffer from a severe crisis in electricity supply, while concerned officials are only offering temporary solutions to the problem, either by renewing a contract to import fuel from Iraq or searching for other sources from Algeria and Kuwait to secure fuel.

“There is a failure in revealing the main reasons behind the delay to benefit from importing gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan, even though Lebanon had signed an agreement with the governments of both countries in this regard,” the sources said.

Last June, Lebanon signed a deal with Egypt to import gas to a power plant in northern Lebanon through Syria.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they fear the deal would remain ink on paper, and that Lebanon’s alternative would remain the reliance on illegal private generators that are treated as a fait accompli.

The political sources then accused some ministers, specifically caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad, of colluding with the owners of generators and providing them with official protection on the pretext that they cover the government’s inability to provide electricity to the Lebanese.

“The Egyptian government may be forced to explain to the Lebanese the facts related to the gas file at the appropriate time,” the sources said, accusing the Energy Ministry of conspiring with influential people who control the generator mafia to keep the electricity situation as it is.

Meanwhile, they revealed that the delay in benefiting from the use of Egyptian gas awaits US “clearance” from sanctions that penalize anyone dealing with the government in Damascus, and also awaits financing from the World Bank.

US ambassador Dorothy Shea had repeatedly announced that Washington does not stand against the deal.

But, the sources asked why the US Congress has not yet sent a letter to Egypt and Jordan confirming that both countries will not be subject to sanctions.

They affirmed that Cairo has nothing to do with this delay.

“The problem is limited to the US administration that is hesitant in sending a message to both Egypt and Jordan clearing them from being penalized by the Caesar Act,” they said.

Moreover, the deal with Egypt is linked to the failure of the Lebanese government and Fayyad to approve a list of reforms in the power sector, which the WB has set as a precondition to financing the deal.

Lebanon has failed to revamp the electricity sector by increasing power supply and then raising prices in an effort to close the state-run electricity company's deficit amid a crushing economic crisis.

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