UN asked to stop Israel from exploiting Lebanon's wealth

AFP, Wednesday 5 Jan 2011

Lebanon calls on the UN to prevent Israeli offshore drilling plans

Lebanon's foreign minister on Tuesday asked the United Nations to curb Israel's offshore drilling plans, days after a US firm announced the discovery of a large field off the coastline.

"We request you do everything possible to ensure Israel does not exploit Lebanon's hydrocarbon resources, which fall within Lebanon's economic zone as delineated in the maps the foreign ministry submitted to the United Nations in 2010," Foreign Minister Ali Shami said in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"Any exploitation by Israel of this resource is a flagrant violation of international law and an attack on Lebanese sovereignty," read the letter, which was carried by the state-run National News Agency.

US firm Noble Energy announced last week that the Leviathan gas field, offshore from the Israeli state, holds an estimated 450 billion cubic metres (16 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas.

The discovery, which surpasses the Tamar field discovered off the northern port of Haifa, has positioned Israel as an exporter, Noble Energy said.

News of the offshore fields, which surfaced in 2010, has increased tensions between the Lebanon and Israel which do not have formal maritime borders and sparked an angry exchange of warnings.

Lebanon's Energy Minister Gebran Bassil has said his country plans to outline its maritime sea borders and auction off rights to explore potential offshore natural gas and petrol reserves in 2012.

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