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April 23, 2021 10:16 am

Saudi Arabia Bans Lebanese Produce Over Drug Smuggling

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

A Saudi vendor sells fruits in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo

Saudi Arabia will ban fruits and vegetables originating from Lebanon from entering or passing through the kingdom due to an increase in drug smuggling, Saudi state media reported on Friday.

The measure could increase economic pressure on Lebanon, already on the verge of financial collapse because of a shortage of foreign currency.

State news agency SPA quoted the Saudi authorities as saying Lebanon had failed to take practical measures to stop the smuggling. The ban will take effect from 9:00 a.m. local time on Sunday and last until Lebanese authorities provide “sufficient and reliable” guarantees they will take the necessary measures to stop systematic drug smuggling in Saudi Arabia.

There was no immediate comment by Lebanon’s government or the agriculture minister. One Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ban appeared to be political.

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“The export of Lebanese vegetables and fruits to the Gulf countries and especially the kingdom was one of the few doors that were still open to bring dollars into the country. Closing this import line increases pressure on Lebanon,” he said.

Lebanon’s total imports to Saudi Arabia were worth $72.82 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, official Saudi data showed.

Lebanon is in the throes of a deep financial crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. The currency has lost around 90% of its value and dollars are scarce.

The crisis is being compounded by political deadlock, with politicians unable to form a government to unlock much-needed foreign aid.

Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have so far been loath to offer aid to ease Beirut’s economic woes, keeping their distance while alarmed by the rising influence of Hezbollah, a powerful group backed by their arch-rival Iran.

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