Lebanon plans to approve draft oil and gas bill

Arab World Materials 26 June 2010 01:56 (UTC +04:00)

Lebanon plans to approve a draft oil and natural gas bill, which would maintain its gas rights in the Mediterranean, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said Friday.

The Lebanese bill has been in development for years, but Berri's statement came after a consortium led by Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva announced June 3 that it had struck natural gas in a field called Leviathan off the coast of Haifa in Israel, DPA reported.

According to Berri, the newly discovered site in Israel extends into Lebanese territorial waters. "Israel is ignoring the fact that, according to the maps, this field is included within Lebanon's territorial waters," he said.

He was responding to remarks by Israel's national infrastructure minister, who threatened to use force to defend the offshore oil and gas reserves.

"The best answer to Israel's threats is to rush to approve the law," Berri said. The Lebanese government is expected to discuss the bill on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said Friday that Lebanon has the right to energy resources off its shores and it was Lebanon's duty to defend this right.

Hezbollah official Sheikh Nabil Kawook said that "any delay in approving a law on investing in Lebanon's petroleum serves Israeli goals."

According to Israeli reports, the site is estimated to contain 15 trillion cubic feet of gas and is the second large-scale gas find in a month. In May, a field called Tamar was discovered that is thought to contain enough gas to supply Israel for the next 20 years.

Lebanon's Energy Minister Jubran Bassil said, "Lebanon will not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of gas that falls in our zone."

He said Israel has been warned not to work close to Lebanon's economic zone.