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US fiercely opposed to Lebanon’s offshore hydrocarbon explorations: Top Hezbollah official

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A UN naval ship is pictured off the coast of the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, near the border with the Israeli-occupied territories, on October 14, 2020. (By AFP)

A high-ranking official with Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement says the United States is preventing the Arab country from offshore crude oil and natural gas exploration and production, stating that Beirut possesses the ability to tap its own energy resources to cover its domestic demands.

“The US is the main opponent to Lebanon’s extracting of its crude oil reserves and enjoying its own national wealth,” Hashim Safi al-Din, the head of the Executive Council of Hezbollah, said at a religious ceremony in the southern Lebanese town of al-Ansariah on Sunday.

He underscored that Lebanese authorities must officially and clearly demarcate the country’s maritime borders and settle a dispute with Israel that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.

Safi al-Din said some “ignorant people” in Lebanon are helping the United States “stonewall the exploration,” adding that political misconduct and corruption over the past few decades have led to the worsening of financial and economic crises in Lebanon and subsequent catastrophic repercussions.

The senior Hezbollah official noted that the United States, along with some of its mercenaries, is trying to target Hezbollah and blame the resistance movement for the status quo in Lebanon.

Safi al-Din went on to say that the Lebanese people, through unity, can resolve the political and economic hiatus that their country is currently experiencing.

“Lebanon can preserve its wealth and victories through resistance, which is the strongest and most viable option. The Lebanese nation needs to rise up and come together in order to find a solution to all major problems,” the Hezbollah official said.

Lebanese politicians hope that commercially viable hydrocarbon resources off Lebanon’s coast could help lift the debt-ridden country out of its worst economic crisis in decades.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, Eni, and Novatek.

Lebanon and Israel took part in indirect talks to discuss demarcation in 2020. But the talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given exploration rights to a Greek firm.

The talks were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860sq km (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.

However, Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more further south, including part of Karish.

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