Underwater bombs damage Syria’s offshore oil facilities

Smoke billows following reported bombardment by Syrian regime forces on the town of Kafr Ruma on the outskirts of Maaret al-Numan, in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on January 27, 2020.(AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Underwater bombs damage Syria’s offshore oil facilities

  • Syria's oil minister said the bombs were planted by divers in the facility used to pump oil to the coast
  • No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the third to target Syria’s oil and gas industry in less than a year

DAMASCUS: Bombs planted underwater off Syria’s coast exploded Monday, damaging oil facilities used to pump oil into one of Syria’s two petroleum refineries, state media and the oil minister said.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the third to target Syria’s oil and gas industry in less than a year.
The attack off the coast of Banias was carried out by “terrorists,” state news agency SANA said. Banias is on the Mediterranean shoreline in the Tartous province.
Oil minister Ali Ghanem told state TV that the bombs were planted by divers in the facility used to pump oil to the coast. He said the facility is 3 kilometers (2 miles) off the coast and is 23 meters (yards) underwater.
“The aim of the attack is to cease (oil) imports into Syria,” Ghanem said, adding the ministry’s experts are evaluating and fixing the damage. He said the attack will not stop imports as the ministry had prepared plans in case of such attacks.
Last month, near-simultaneous attacks believed to have been carried out by drones hit three government-run oil and gas installations in central Syria. One of the December attacks targeted the oil refinery in the central city of Homs.
Syria has suffered fuel shortages since last year. Western sanctions have blocked imports, while most Syrian oil fields are controlled by Kurdish-led fighters in the country’s east.
In June, sabotage attacks damaged five underwater pipelines off Banias.
Before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the country exported around half of the 350,000 barrels of oil it produced per day. Now its production is down to around 24,000 barrels a day, covering only a fraction of domestic needs.


IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

Updated 20 February 2020

IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

  • IMF team will provide broad technical advice
  • Lebanon has not requested IMF financial assistance

BEIRUT: A team of IMF experts met Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday at the start of a visit to provide Lebanon with advice on tackling a deepening financial and economic crisis, an official Lebanese source said.

The IMF has said the team will visit until Feb. 23 and provide broad technical advice. Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the Fund.

The long-brewing economic crisis spiraled last year as capital flows into the country slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite over decades of corruption and bad governance.

Diab’s government, which took office last month, must decide what to do about upcoming debt payments, notably a $1.2 billion dollar-denominated sovereign bond due on March 9.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meanwhile said on Thursday measures would be taken to hold to account all those who contributed to Lebanon’s financial crisis through illegal actions be they transfers abroad, manipulation of Eurobonds or other acts.

“There is information that we are still in need of with regards to the banking situation. There are measures that we will take to hold to account all who participated in bringing the crisis to where it is,” Aoun said, according to his Twitter account.

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One of Lebanon’s most influential politicians, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said on Wednesday that debt restructuring was the best solution for looming maturities.

Lebanon will on Friday review proposals from firms bidding to give it financial and legal advice on its options, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The government aims to take a quick decision on who to appoint, the source said.

So far, firms bidding to be Lebanon’s legal adviser are Dechert, Cleary Gottlieb, and White and Case, the source said.

Lebanon has issued requests for proposals to seven firms to provide it with financial advice.

The government on Wednesday formed a committee tasked with preparing an economic recovery plan that includes ministers, government officials, a central bank representative and economists, according to a copy of a decree seen by Reuters.