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BEIRUT (AP) — Severe fuel shortages and wide power cuts have paralyzed tiny Lebanon, with some businesses temporarily closing down on Friday as top security officials met to discuss the situation.
Lebanon has for decades suffered electricity cuts, partly because of widespread corruption and mismanagement. The Mediterranean nation of 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees is near bankruptcy. The situation deteriorated dramatically this week after the central bank decided to end subsidies for fuel products.
The decision will likely lead to a hike in prices of almost all commodities in Lebanon.
The move by the central bank was rejected by both Lebanon’s president and outgoing prime minister who claimed they were not notified in advance.
Major roads were jammed Friday as thousands of cars waited in long lines at petrol stations. People rushed to bakeries to by bread amid fears some might close down.
“Many bakeries that are running out (of diesel) will close tomorrow,” Ali Ibrahim, head of the bakers’ union, told state-run National News Agency.
Fuel shortages have been blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the cash-strapped government’s inability to secure deliveries of imported fuel.
President Michel Aoun called an “extraordinary” Cabinet meeting to discuss the nation- wide crisis but outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, whose government resigned a year ago, declined to attend, saying the constitution restricts duties of his caretaker Cabinet.