(Refiles to correct typo in headline)
* Electricity outages worst since uprising - residents
* Gasoil, widely used for heating oil and transport, in most
* Gov't run petrol stations raise prices again
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Dec 5 Syria's capital is facing the worst
power cuts since the beginning of the country's 20-month-old
revolt, with longer power outages and acute shortages of heating
oil and diesel.
Residents and officials contacted in the capital by phone
said many parts of central Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad's
seat of power, now have electricity cuts of seven to nine hours
a day, almost double the outages reported nearly two weeks ago.
The power cuts come at a time of increasing pressure on
Damascus. Rebels are pushing to advance from their foothold on
the outskirts into the capital itself. The army has responded by
battering the suburbs with artillery and bombs.
An official source in the ministry of electricity was quoted
as saying by state media that the increased rationing hours in
parts of the capital were due to "sabotage by armed terrorists"
of high voltage towers that feed southern districts of Damascus.
Residents say outages in the last week almost doubled to an
average of 12 hours a day in the worst hit areas, such as The
southeastern suburb of Jeramana, and to at least six hours a day
in several key central areas such as Tijara and Midan.
"If you add together how many hours of electricity (there
are) it's only two or three hours that is coming and the rest of
the day it's cut," said Anas Atari from Jeramana, where fighting
has escalated on its outskirts near the airport.
Unlike rural areas that have seen the worst violence,
central Damascus was until last month spared the steep power
outages witnessed across other parts of the country.
The government has now increased the cost of a litre of
gasoline to 55 pounds from 50 pounds (60 cents), the second hike
the start of the revolt in March last year.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said authorities were
trying to curb smuggling and reduce the heavy cost of
subsidising fuel and electricity at a time when Syria faces a
foreign currency crunch due to sanctions.
The ability of the state to ease fuel shortages and control
prices of some basic commodities has so far helped Assad cling
to power, because households are getting basic needs.
But residents say the cost of public transport has doubled
since last month as fighting creeps closer to central Damascus.
Witnesses say several main gasoline stations in the city's
bustling Baghdad Street, Liberation Square and Abassayid Square
are facing acute shortages and longer queues.
"The problem is that things are all coming on top of each
other - lack of transport and a crisis in diesel and more and
more pressures that are making life unbearable," said Abdullah
al-Hassan, an exchange dealer in the Seven Lakes area.
WORST SHORTAGES IN DIESEL
Businessmen and residents said the worst fuel shortages were
in supplies of gasoil, an industry term for diesel, widely used
for household heating oil, vehicles and industry. The black
market price of diesel has shot up in the last two days to over
80 pounds a litre (around $1 at black market rates).
Residents say the shortages have even prompted government
run petrol stations not to adhere to the official price of 20
pounds price of a litre of gasoil, with government vendors
openly selling at higher than 35 pounds a litre for customers
fortunate enough to find supplies.
Syria has been starved of fuel by U.S. and European Union
sanctions that have cut off its usual supplies.
Sporadic diesel deliveries from Iran, Syria's main regional
ally, can meet only a fraction of its needs and fresh deals with
Russia have not yet been finalised.
Demand for diesel to power army tanks and other heavy
vehicles was also diverting scarce supplies away from civilians,
industry sources say.
They say rebel advances around the country have also
disrupted state supply routes even when diesel was available in
government storage tanks. The army now appears on the defensive.
"Logistics is the main problem. There are areas you cannot
enter and there are highways in areas falling under rebel
control where government fuel supplies are seized," said an
employee in a state run fuel distribution firm, who requested
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Douglas Hamilton
and Jon Hemming)