Lebanon: Syria-bound diesel trucks halted over claims cargo is used to quell uprising
Protesters blocked roads Wednesday in the north Lebanon border towns of Arida and Abboudieh, preventing tanker trucks from transporting diesel into Syria, while Sheikh Ahmad alAssir threatened to prevent Syrian trucks from loading the fuel in the southern district of Zahrani.
The protesters and Assir have claimed that the diesel is being used by the regime in its crackdown on the uprising in Syria.
Demonstrators in Arida blocked the international highway around 8 a.m., bringing traffic to a standstill on the road leading to the border crossing.
One protester, who identified himself as Abu Thaer, argued that the diesel was bound for soldiers loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad: “We will not allow the trucks to enter Syria because diesel is going to the Syrian regime forces to kill the Syrian people.
“This is the first warning,” Abu Thaer added, refusing to elaborate. He said that the transport of diesel contradicted Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from developments in Syria.
Protesters in Arida were joined by Akkar MP Mouin Merhebi, from the Future Movement, as well as a representative of MP Khaled Daher.
“We cannot allow any product that is used to kill the unarmed Syrian people to enter [Syria], particularly diesel,” Merhebi told reporters.
The lawmaker said that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, which he called the Cabinet of President Bashar Assad, was supporting the Syrian regime in committing massacres against its own people.
“We put this issue at the disposal of the United Nations, the Arab League and international organizations,” Merhebi added. The roads were reopened in the afternoon.
In Sidon, Assir vowed residents of the city would prevent diesel tankers from supporting the Syrian regime.
“As for we here in Sidon, we will not accept that these diesel tankers pass [through the city] to support the criminal Bashar Assad; let everyone know that we will take to the streets,” Assir told a news conference at his mosque in Abra, east of Sidon.
“We call on officials to stop committing this crime, particularly since it contradicts the disassociation policy [of the government]. ... I call on all free people in Lebanon to prevent the passage of these diesel tankers, which are killing the Syrian people,” he said.
In the southern district of Zahrani, 32 diesel tanker trucks with Syrian license plates were seen heading toward the Zahrani power plant and a private company that sources said stores diesel for the Energy Ministry. The sources told the Daily Star that the trucks were loaded with 1.2 million liters of diesel.
Rumors that Assir’s supporters would take action prompted the drivers to wait for a few hours after loading their trucks and after receiving assurances by a security body that there were no protests on the road, the trucks left.
The Energy Ministry claimed in a statement released Tuesday that no kerosene or red diesel was being exported to Syria from refineries in the north and south of the country.
Syrian tanker trucks have been seen loading diesel in Zahrani and were being filled by a nearby private oil firm.
“Oil and diesel re-export is done in accordance with proper commercial and administrative procedures and does not require the prior approval of the minister,” the statement said.
In a television interview with a local station, Chouf MP Mohammad Hajjar, from the Future Movement, claimed that diesel transported to Syria is “green diesel,” which is used for vehicles and not for heating purposes.
Hajjar added that the diesel may not be transported to Syria without permission of the energy minister.