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Greeks eye Israeli gas reserves

JERUSALEM, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Natural gas from offshore deposits in Israel could serve as a backup source of energy for the European community, a Greek environment official said.

Greek Deputy Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Ioannis Maniatis arrived in Israel to prepare for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's March visit, during which energy issues are expected to top the agenda, the Platts news service reports.

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Greek officials in January started talks with Israeli officials about transporting gas from the offshore Leviathan field to European markets.

Israel heralded a change in its energy sector last month with the announcement that the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Haifa holds at least 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Israel had depended on Egypt and other regional energy giants for natural gas, though analysts said Leviathan and last year's gas find at the Tamar field changes the game for Israel.

Platts notes that Leviathan won't be ready for exports until at least 2016.

Israel said there is enough gas off its coast to meet its demand for energy. Lebanon, however, holds that Leviathan extends into its territory and Hezbollah warned Israel to keep away from the gas reserves.

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