France’s Total boosts Cypriot gas plan as it eyes Iran exit

In this file photo taken on Oct.12, 2016, the logo of French oil giant Total SA is pictured at company headquarters in La Defense business district, outside Paris. (AP/Michel Euler)
Updated 21 May 2018
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France’s Total boosts Cypriot gas plan as it eyes Iran exit

  • French energy company Total says it is looking to expand its search for natural gas off Cyprus’ south coast
  • Total is partners with Eni to search for oil and gas in two other areas off Cyprus

NICOSIA: French energy company Total says it is looking to expand its search for natural gas off Cyprus’ south coast and seeks to secure another exploratory drilling license, days after warning it could exit Iran over renewed US sanctions there.
Stephane Michel, Total’s Middle East exploration chief, said Monday that the company has applied for a license to search for hydrocarbons in Block 8, an area south of Cyprus where Italian company Eni is already licensed to carry out exploratory drilling.
Total is partners with Eni to search for oil and gas in two other areas off Cyprus. In one of the two, Eni said in February it has discovered a “promising” gas deposit with similar geological features as that of another discovery in Egyptian waters it described as the largest ever in the Mediterranean.
Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis called Total’s move an “important development” that expands the company’s exploration footprint off Cyprus.
Lakkotrypis said what gives the move added weight is the fact that Total’s interest comes three months after Turkish warships blocked a drillship from carrying out exploratory drilling by Eni in Block 3, an area southeast of Cyprus.
“After all that happened in Block 3, we see one of the most important partners of the Cyprus Republic wanting to expand its presence inside the Exclusive Economic Zone, especially in an area like Block 8 which is still unexplored.”
Turkey opposes what it calls a “unilateral” gas search by the ethnically divided island’s Greek Cypriot-run government, insisting that it flouts the rights of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to natural resources. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and claims parts of exploration areas south of Cyprus which it says fall within its continental shelf.
The Cyprus government says any potential gas proceeds will be shared equitably with Turkish Cypriots after an accord reunifying the island is reached.
A deposit discovered off Cyprus by Texas-based Noble Energy in 2011 is estimated to contain around 4.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Total’s move also comes just days after it said it would have to withdraw multi-billion-dollar project in Iran unless it is granted a waiver by US authorities. The group said it cannot afford to be exposed to US sanctions, including the loss of financing by American banks.


Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

Updated 55 min 40 sec ago
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Fraudsters exploit interest in Libra digital currency

  • Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook and Instagram
  • Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online
SAN FRANCISCO: Fraudsters are out to cash in on interest in Facebook-backed digital currency Libra, hawking bogus buying opportunities at online venues including the social network itself.
Libra is to launch next year, overseen by an association based in Europe, but as with other hot topics it has been seized on by nefarious characters intent on tricking people with false accounts, pages, and information.
Fake Libra opportunities or offerings have popped up on Facebook’s main social network and its image-centric online community Instagram, according to a report Monday in the Washington Post.
A number of Libra-themed deceptive accounts were removed from the Facebook platform after the California-based company was alerted by the Post, according to the publication.
Some of the fake accounts used the official Facebook logo and photos of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
“Facebook removes ads and Pages that violate our policies when we become aware of them, and we are constantly working to improve detection of scams on our platforms,” the Internet titan said in response to an AFP inquiry.
The Libra Association was reported to be working with Facebook to get deceptive pages about the currency deleted.
Criminals routinely seize on hot topics to try to dupe people online, from natural disasters and major tragedies to celebrity news.
A buylibracoins.com website accessible Monday offered a fake chance to buy the digital currency, encouraging potential victims to share contact details of friends in a referral program.
Fraudsters were said to be setting also hunting for victims at other online venues such as Twitter and YouTube.
The rise of fake Libra offerings comes as Facebook tries to dispel worries and build trust in what it hopes will be a global currency that gives life-changing financial tools to people around the world.
G7 finance ministers and central bankers last week dealt a blow to Facebook’s planned new cryptocurrency Libra, issuing a barrage of warnings about its dangers for the global economy at a two-day meeting outside Paris.
Facebook in June unveiled its plans for Libra in an announcement greeted with concern by governments and critics of the social network behemoth, whose reputation has already been tarnished by its role in spreading fake information and extremist videos.
Ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major global economies “agreed that projects such as Libra may affect monetary sovereignty and the functioning of the international monetary system,” France, the current G7 chair, said in a statement.
It said projects like Libra with a “global and potentially systemic footprint... raise serious regulatory and systemic concerns, as well as wider policy issues, which both need to be addressed before such projects can be implemented.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his concerns about Libra and other cryptocurrencies — which he had made clear in White House news conference this month — were shared by G7 counterparts.
Libra is widely regarded as a challenger to dominant global player bitcoin. Expected to launch in the first half of 2020, Libra is designed to be backed by a basket of currency assets to avoid the wild swings of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.