US Tells Lebanon Not to Fear Sanctions Over Energy Supply Plans, PM's Office Says

BEIRUT (Reuters) — The United States ambassador to Lebanon told the Lebanese government it should not fear a U.S. sanctions law over its plans to receive energy supplies from the region, the office of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday.

Lebanon, which is grappling with a deep financial crisis, is seeking to import energy from fellow Arab states to ease an acute power shortage. However, supplies would have to transit Syria, which is subject to a U.S. sanctions law.

U.S. Ambassador Dorothy Shea handed Mikati a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department "to answer some of the concerns the Lebanese authorities had regarding regional energy agreements that the United States helped facilitate between Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt," the statement from the prime minister's office said.

Under a plan agreed between Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria in September, Egyptian gas would be piped to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria to help boost Lebanon's power output, which now delivers a few hours a day of electricity at best.

The plan, which has U.S. backing, aims to pump the gas through an Arab pipeline established about 20 years ago.

However, the plan has been complicated by U.S. sanctions on the Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, prompting Lebanese officials to ask Washington to grant an exemption. Damascus has said it was ready to cooperate.

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