Lebanon asks Russia for $1 billion in aid

Yet another Middle Eastern government is asking Russia for financial assistance. Following Iran, which is expecting a $2 billion Russian loan, and Syria, which has already been allocated $500 million for expanding its port infrastructure, Lebanon is requesting Kremlin money.

According to the Lebanese media, Beirut would like a $600 million - $1 billion loan from Russia.

The foreign currency is sorely needed by Lebanon, which is undergoing a severe currency crisis with a shortage of dollars, double-digit inflation and the collapse of its national currency.

In October last year, the Lebanese pound fell to a 22-year low, being sold on the black market at 2,500 pounds to the dollar, although the official exchange rate was 1,505. This provoked a wave of mass protests, which security forces responded to by disconnecting the internet throughout the country. This measure did not, however, help to keep Saad Hariri’s coalition government in power, and he was forced to resign on October 29.

On January 10, Riad Lasamé, governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, said that the country urgently needs foreign assistance. He said that Qatar, which has $30 billion in foreign currency reserves and a sovereign fund of $335 billion, could provide a loan.

Two weeks later, the new Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that Lebanon is in a catastrophic situation, and that the cabinet of ministers “is faced with the challenge of finding a way out of the deadlock which does not affect the interests of the population, and maintains stability”.

It is still unclear whether Lebanon can count on Russian money. The Russian Finance Ministry told Interfax that it is not currently discussing the possibility of lending to Lebanon.

In November it was learned that Iran had asked Russia for $2 billion in assistance. Amid hyperinflation, sanctions and a nearly complete loss of sources of export revenue, the Islamic republic asked for money to build a thermal and hydroelectric power plant, railway lines, and carriages for a metro, said Russian Energy Minister Alexander after talks with his Iranian colleague Reza Ardakanian.

One month later, the Russian government announced that it was allocating $500 million to upgrading the Syrian port of Tartus. In order to increase its capacity, there are plans to build a railway line through Syria and Iraq.

  Lebanon, Russia, Kremlin

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