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Miqati, Bassil to Meet after Warning that Israel Could Access Offshore Oil
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Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati is scheduled to meet on Monday with Energy Minister Jebran Bassil who warned last week that Israel's discovery of a new offshore gas field near Lebanese territorial waters means the Jewish state could siphon some of Lebanon's crude oil.

Oil and gas exploration are a priority because we are keen on preserving our natural resources, Miqati said in remarks published in As Safir newspaper.

Future oil exploration would largely contribute to paying off Lebanon's public debts, he said.

Miqati's talks with Bassil on Monday will concentrate on the necessary measures to move the process forward.

The cabinet has previously taken a series of important decisions in that regard, but more steps are required, the caretaker PM said.

Bassil said on Friday that Israel could "in principle" drill either vertically or horizontally in its new field, potentially reaching Lebanon's deposits if the two nations' fields are joined at the sea bottom.

Israel's new field is about 4 kilometers from Lebanon's territorial waters.

Bassil urged the outgoing government to hold an extraordinary session to ratify decrees paving way for the country to start oil and gas explorations.

Miqati vowed that his government would closely follow up the issue, including keeping its contacts with the United Nations to prevent Israel from infringing on Lebanon's oil resources.

Recent Israeli discoveries of oil and gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea have raised tensions between Lebanon and Israel that are bickering over a zone that consists of about 854 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves there could generate billions of dollars.

Beirut argues that a maritime map it submitted to the U.N. is in line with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949, an agreement which is not contested by Israel.