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Lebanon moves on offshore oil, gas round

  |   May 1, 2013 at 6:47 AM
BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 1 (UPI) -- The failure to form a new government might get in the way of Lebanon's offshore oil and gas ambitions, the caretaker energy minister said.

Tammam Salam won support last month from the March 8 alliance, which includes Hezbollah politicians, and March 14, a slate that has support from Western powers.

He's tasked with forming a new Cabinet that will replace Prime Minister Najib Mikati's administration. Lebanon is scheduled for elections in June.

Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said the interim government has decided to go ahead with a licensing round for offshore exploration.

"But if the decrees were not issued (by a new) Cabinet before September 2013, we will have to delay the bid like what happens in many countries," he was quoted by The Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon as saying.

He added Lebanese leaders could push the issue forward, however, if the matter were determined to be a significant national interest.

There may be more than 400 million barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in place off Lebanon.

"We initially thought there was only natural gas in the south but today we are sure there is not only gas but oil in the south, the north ... and all of our exclusive economic zone, including both deep and shallow waters," said Bassil.

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