Lebanon says will pursue oil exploration despite Israeli criticism

An oil tanker is moored on the northern outskirts of Beirut. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 01 February 2018
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Lebanon says will pursue oil exploration despite Israeli criticism

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Thursday pledged to do “everything in its power” to pursue oil and gas drilling off its coast, in response to Israeli accusations that such explorations were “provocative.”
In December, Lebanon approved a first bid to search for oil and gas in two blocks off the country’s Mediterranean coast, including one that Israel says belongs to it.
On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said awarding such bids amounted to “provocative behavior” by Lebanon’s government.
“They issue a tender on a gas field — including a bloc which by all accounts is ours — to international groups that are respectable companies, which to my mind are making a serious mistake since it’s against all rules and protocol in cases like this,” Lieberman said.
Lebanese officials have fired back, with Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil on Thursday saying Lebanon would defend its right to drill there.
“Israel will do what it can to block us from taking advantage of our oil wealth, and we will do everything in our power to defend it,” Abi Khalil told a local radio station.
Lebanon will sign agreements with the explorers — France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek — next week and would be ready to begin drilling by 2019, he said.
Lieberman’s comments on Wednesday have set off a firestorm in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, an armed movement that has clashed with Israel on several occasions, condemned his statement.
Armed movement Hezbollah on Wednesday it would “respond firmly to any attack on our oil and gas rights, defend Lebanon’s products, and protect its resources.”
And on Thursday, President Michel Aoun pledged Beirut would “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all available means.”
Lebanon is looking to tap potential oil and gas reserves after major offshore discoveries by neighboring Israel and Cyprus.
On December 14, it approved a bid on blocks four and nine — just two of the five that were offered.
Block nine is the disputed block with Israel.


Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

Updated 13 min 50 sec ago
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Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq’s Basra

  • The rocket hit Burjeisa residential and operations headquarters west of Basra
  • Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile

BASRA, Iraq: A rocket struck the site of the residential and operations headquarters of several global major oil companies, including US giant ExxonMobil, near Iraq’s southern city of Basra early on Wednesday, wounding three people, Iraq’s military said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. It came after two separate attacks in as many days on bases housing US military personnel in Iraq, as tension rose between the United States and Iran.
The rocket hit the Burjesia site west of the city, according to police and a statement released by the military. Police earlier said two Iraqi workers were wounded.
The United States evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from its Baghdad embassy last month, citing unspecified threats from Iran against US interests in neighboring Iraq, where Tehran supports some Shiite militias.
Wednesday’s incident came just as Exxon staff who were also evacuated after the diplomats’ departure had begun to return to Basra.
A security source said Exxon was evacuating 21 foreign staff immediately by plane to Dubai.
Oil officials said operations including exports from southern Iraq were not affected by the incident.
Other companies operating at the site include Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Italy’s Eni SpA, the oil officials said.
The rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile, the military said. Police said it landed 100 meters from the part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon.
Burjesia is near the Zubair oilfield operated by Eni.
Washington has ramped up sanctions pressure on Iran in recent months and says it has sent additional forces to the region over tension with the Islamic Republic.
It blames Tehran for attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. Tehran denies it was involved.
Both sides say they do not want war, but analysts warn such incidents could escalate violence in the region.