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Lebanon Petrol Stations Suspend Strike, Union Meets Monday

Lebanon Petrol Stations Suspend Strike, Union Meets Monday

Saturday, 30 November, 2019 - 09:00
A gas station closes during a protest agains tight supply of dollars in Beirut, Lebanon September 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Lebanon’s petrol stations syndicate chief announced on Friday night that the union was suspending its open-ended strike, state news agency (NNA) quoted Sami al-Brax as saying.


Lebanese daily Al-Nahar cited al-Brax saying the union was suspending its strike to hold talks with authorities and added the syndicate would have a meeting on Monday.


The union had called for the strike starting Thursday because of losses incurred from having to buy dollars on a parallel market, the main source of hard currency during the country’s economic crisis.


The strike had seen angry Lebanese block roads across the country on Friday in protest.


In Beirut and several other major cities, drivers briefly stopped their cars in the afternoon, blocking some main roads.


In the capital, most stations had closed their pumps and blocked off their entrances with a barrier or yellow tape, but a handful had remained open, the photographer said.


Clutching empty one-gallon (four-liter) bottles, dozens clustered around pumps in the few still operating to fill up on fuel.


On local television, a woman complained she had to abandon her car in the middle of the road as she looked for petrol.


The Lebanese pound is pegged at around 1,500 pounds to the dollar, and both are used interchangeably in everyday transactions.


But banks in Lebanon have been rationing dollar withdrawals, forcing those in need to resort to money-changers and pushing the unofficial exchange rate above 2,000 pounds to the greenback.


The central bank last month said it would help fuel importers with access to the dollar at the lower official exchange rate.


But petrol stations say they are making losses because they are forced to buy dollars at the higher rate to pay importers demanding the foreign currency.


The government stepped down on October 29, less than two weeks after the first demonstration, but the country's deeply divided political parties have failed to form a new one.


The protesters have demanded a new technocratic cabinet made up of independent experts, rather than representatives of the country's traditional political parties divided along sectarian lines.


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