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Caretaker Energy Minister Jebran Bassil admitted on Sunday to causing the gasoline crisis that has engulfed Lebanon but said there wasn’t any other way to defend the people’s rights and lower prices. Lebanese Forces bloc MP Antoine Zahra slammed Bassil for holding the Lebanese hostage as he showed off his power, asking “Do you run the country with malice?”

During a press conference he held at his hometown in Batroun, Bassil said he received phone calls from state officials during his visit to Rome on Friday urging him to issue the updated price list of gasoline.

However, Bassil said he refused to do so and asked the officials to put pressure on Caretaker Finance Minister Rayya al-Hassan and the Higher Customs Council to lower taxes on gasoline first.

Demonstrating arrogance and sarcasm, Bassil “thanked” Finance Minister Rayya al-Hassan “even though she was forced” to resolve the matter.

“I apologize to Hassan because history will only mention the truth. She was not the one who decreased the gas prices. We apologize to the Future Movement and its allies because it turned out that they were wrong when they said that [my proposal] to decrease the gas prices was illegal.”

Bassil added, “What happened concerning the fuel issue indicates how we work. We are a guarantee of your cabinet’s success. Do not worry about the economy because our firmness can [save] the economic situation. Do not worry about the future. What will we do in the economic [sector] will be better than [what was done] before.”

Zahra responded: “If lowering gas prices falls within Energy Minister Gebran Bassil’s jurisdiction, then why did not he do it before the cabinet collapsed? Why did you wait until the cabinet resigned and then address a body [a reference to the Higher Council of Customs] which you have nothing to do with? Since when does a minister address a body that is linked to another ministry and then ‘show off’ for forcing it to make a decision?”

“Does the future [flourish] by excluding others? [Are you trying to] convince the people that you want to achieve change through [your] obvious corruption which you call reform?”

On Saturday, the Higher Council of Customs lowered the tax on gas by 5,000 LL per 20 liters after receiving a formal request to do so from Bassil.

This decision came after President Michel Sleiman and outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri sent notifications to Finance Minister Rayya al-Hassan instructing her to allow the Higher Council of Customs to decrease the tax.

Naharnet, Now Lebanon

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