BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday that dollar injections were needed to shore up the pound currency and accused the United States of preventing dollars from reaching the crisis-hit country.
A dive in the pound currency last week sparked fresh protests in Lebanon, prompting the government to announce that the central bank would begin injecting scarce dollars into the market this week to reverse its fall.
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday the central bank was working with money changers to gradually reduce the dollar price but has not commented on whether dwindling reserves had yet been deployed to boost the pound.
In a televised address, Narallah said the United States had blocked dollars from reaching Lebanon, worsening a shortage that has hiked prices.
“Under the pretext that dollars are being collected in the (Lebanese) market and being taken to Syria, the Americans are preventing dollars from coming to Lebanon, even what is in the hands of the Lebanese central bank for the Lebanese market,” said Nasrallah.
The local currency has lost more than 60% of its value since late last year, when Lebanon plunged deep into a financial crisis that has pushed the government to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.
On the ongoing IMF talks, Narallah said they could take months and that there was “talk” it could take a year, asking, “Can the country bear a year?”
Commenting on tough new U.S. sanctions taking effect this month on Syria, Nasrallah called them the “last American weapon” and said Syria’s allies would not allow the sanctions to defeat Syria.
Reporting by Laila Bassam and Eric Knecht; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis