Hezbollah warns Israel against 'stealing' Mediterranean gas
and oil resources
By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press
BEIRUT — The leader of Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group on
Tuesday warned Israel against trying to steal Lebanon's maritime
resources and said it would retaliate against any Israeli attack
on the country's oil and gas installations.
A dispute is building between the two rival nations over their
maritime border and huge natural gas and oil reserves beneath the
Mediterranean Sea. The countries are longtime enemies and do not
have diplomatic relations.
Lebanon has submitted its own sea boundary proposal to the United
Nations, and the Israeli government earlier this month approved a
conflicting proposal that it also sent to the world body. Lebanon
called the Israeli proposal a violation of international law and
Nasrallah, in his speech Tuesday marking the fifth anniversary of
the 2006 war, urged the Lebanese government to ratify a law which
has already been discussed in parliament to pave the way for
companies to start exploring off its coast.
He said Lebanon can protect those companies and oil and gas
installations because Israel has installations too. "Those who
harm our installations will have their own installations harmed,"
"We warn Israel not to touch this area or try to steal Lebanon's
resources," he added.
Last week, senior U.N. envoy Michael Williams urged Lebanon and
Israel to promote oil and gas exploration off their coasts despite
their dispute. He said maritime disputes are common and
exploration companies will avoid the contested area.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which dominates Lebanese politics
and battled Israel in a monthlong war in 2006, has threatened to
use force to protect Lebanon's natural wealth. Israel's National
Infrastructure Minister, Uzi Landau, has said Israel would use
force to defend its gas fields.
Over the past two years, Israel has discovered two fields thought
to contain about 24 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. The
discoveries, notable in a country lacking in natural resources,
are believed to be enough to make Israel energy self-sufficient
Nasrallah said the reserves were a "golden opportunity" for
Lebanon to service its huge debt and rebuild its economy.
The gas discoveries have created a new source of friction between
the two countries, which have clashed repeatedly.
In most cases, countries negotiate their maritime border, as
Israel did several months ago with Cyprus. Because Israel and
Lebanon have no diplomatic relations, the proposals are to go to
the United Nations.
It is unclear what role the U.N. would play in determining the
border. After Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000,
following an 18-year occupation, the U.N. drew the land border
between the two countries, though the Iran-backed Lebanese
Hezbollah militia disputes part of it.