Risking Israeli dispute, Lebanon signs deal with 3 oil firms

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 11:48 AM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 11:48 AM


            Lebanese President Michel Aoun, center, stands for the national anthem of Lebanon during the signing ceremony with an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. The ceremony was attended by officials from the consortium's three oil companies, Italy's Eni, France's Total and Russia's Novatek. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, center, stands for the national anthem of Lebanon during the signing ceremony with an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. The ceremony was attended by officials from the consortium's three oil companies, Italy's Eni, France's Total and Russia's Novatek. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanon signed Friday a deal with an international consortium to start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas amid tensions with Israel. Beirut hopes that oil and gas will help boost its struggling economy.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil warned Israel not to try to hinder the drilling on the Lebanese side saying that Beirut can also stop offshore development on the Israeli side.

Lebanon and Israel are technically at war and both countries have fought several wars over the past decades.

Israel has in recent days escalated its threats against Lebanon over its invitation for offshore gas exploration bids on the countries' maritime border claiming that Lebanon will be drilling in areas owned by Israel. Lebanese officials deny the Israeli statements, saying the area where the country plans to drill belongs to Lebanon.

The signing ceremony was held Friday afternoon in Beirut and was attended by President Michel Aoun and officials from the three oil companies — Italy's Eni, France's Total and Russia's Novatek.

"We have achieved a big dream and Lebanon has entered a new era today," Aoun said at the ceremony.

Lebanon has a debt of $80 billion or 145 percent of its gross domestic product making it one of the world's highest.

The agreement came two months after Lebanon's government approved the licenses for the international consortium to move forward with offshore oil and gas development. The three companies have bid for two of Lebanon's 10 offshore blocks, to determine whether oil and gas reserves exist.

Lebanon's Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said the country will start exploratory offshore drilling for oil and gas next year.

A major find in Lebanon's southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with Israel, which is developing a number of offshore gas deposits, with one large field, Tamar, already producing gas, and the larger Leviathan field set to go online next year.

There are over 800 square kilometers (300 square miles) of waters claimed by the two countries. The dispute is over parts of Lebanon's block 9 that is on the border with Israel.

"Israel cannot stop the activities on the Lebanese side because Lebanon can then stop the activities on the Israeli sides," Bassil told The Associated Press when asked if the drilling will cause more tensions with Israel.

He added that the oil companies declared that there is no reason "that they should not speed the process and they should start right away."

Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Lebanon's exploration tender as "very provocative" and suggested that Lebanon had put out invitations for bids from international groups for a gas field "which is by all accounts ours."

His comments drew sharp condemnation from the militant Hezbollah group and Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Western ally, who described Lieberman's comments as a "blatant provocation that Lebanon rejects."

Stephane Michel, president of Total Middle East and North Africa, said there will be no delay in drilling. He added that they will be working 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the border in block 9.

Chairman of the board of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration Walid Nasr said it will take five to six years for Lebanon to become an oil producing country "but the important thing is to start. Everything has a starting point and today was the starting point."

Trending - Most Read Stories

Couple who lost everything in fire wins $1 million lottery

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 11:30 AM

Tips for When You Win the Lottery

A couple in Canada can now start rebuilding their lives after they were big winners in the Atlantic Lottery.

Bill Pendergast and his wife accepted a $1 million check this month, nearly two years after their home and all their belongings were destroyed in a wildfire.

The May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire destroyed their home, along with about 10 percent of the Alberta, Canada, town, the BBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Pendergast was recently visiting his sick father in Newfoundland, who ask him to get a soda at a store, the BBC reported. He bought a ticket at the local gas station on a whim. The next morning, he found out he was a new millionaire, CNN reported. He then called his wife, who hopped on a plane to Newfoundland to help her husband cash in on his newfound money, CNN reported.

The money, the couple said, will be used mostly to help put the pieces back together, including finishing construction on their new home, CBC reported.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

“Our rebuild should be finished in the next two to four months, so this is going to go a long way towards that,” Pendergast told CBC.

The family, including the couple’s five sons, is also going to take a family vacation, CBC reported.

But there is one thing the lucky winner always wanted that will now become a reality.

“I have always wanted a Mustang, and I will finally have one, I’m 100% sure of that,” Pendergast told CNN.

FILE PHOTO(Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Trending - Most Read Stories

London City Airport shuts down due to unexploded WWII bomb

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

London City Airport canceled all flights in and out of it after a 1,100-pound bomb was found. The WWII-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames. The airport is situated in an area of London heavily bombed by the Germans in WWII.

All flights in and out of London City Airport were canceled Monday after a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) unexploded World War II-era bomb was found nearby in the River Thames.

The Metropolitan Police service cleared an area within 214 meters (700 feet) of the bomb, including several residential streets, as officers worked with specialists from the Royal Navy to remove the device.

Police said the bomb was discovered Sunday at the George V Dock during pre-planned work at City Airport. They described it as a 1.5-meter (5-foot) shell that was lying in a bed of dense silt.

"The first stage of the removal operation is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for removal," police said in a statement.

>> Video emerges of drone flying dangerously close to plane landing in Las Vegas

Local officials offered emergency accommodations to residents and said work to remove the bomb would continue into Tuesday.

Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said he recognizes that passengers will be inconvenienced but said the airport is cooperating fully with authorities "to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

London City, the smallest of London's international airports, handled 4.5 million passengers last year. Popular with business travelers, it's located in east London's docklands, an area that was heavily bombed during World War II.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle release more wedding details

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 10:21 AM

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Engaged

More details about this year’s royal wedding are being released from Kensington Palace.

>> Read more trending news 

We already know that Prince Harry and his fiancée, Meghan Markle will get married on May 19. 

Now we know what will follow once they have exchanged vows.

They will be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Reverend and Right Honorable Justin Welby, at St. George’s Chapel at exactly noon on May 19. That’s 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The rest of the service will be led by the Right Reverend David Conner, the dean of Windsor, CNN reported.


One hour later, at 1 p.m. local time, or 8 a.m. EST, they will depart the church via horse-drawn carriage through the streets of London, similar to what Prince Harry’s older brother Prince William and Duchess Catherine did on their wedding day in 2011, People magazine reported.


A reception will be held after the wedding at St. George’s Hall, a stateroom inside Windsor Castle. They will arrive at the event after the carriage ride.


There will be a break in the afternoon before the newlyweds are honored in a private evening reception that will be given by Prince Charles. Details on the location of the private reception have not been released, CNN reported.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle leave the 'Endeavour Fund Awards' Ceremony at Goldsmiths Hall on February 1, 2018 in London, England. The awards celebrate the achievements of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women who have taken part in remarkable sporting and adventure challenges over the last year. (Photo by Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images)(WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Trending - Most Read Stories

71 dead after passenger plane crashes near Moscow, Russia's transport minister says

Published: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 5:10 AM
Updated: Monday, February 12, 2018 @ 5:10 AM

Russian Passenger Plane Crashes Near Moscow, Killing 71

A Russian passenger plane with 71 people on board has crashed near Moscow, multiple news outlets reported Sunday. Russia’s transport minister said there are no survivors from the crash.

Trending - Most Read Stories