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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Lebanon signs gas deal with Egypt, Syria

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BEIRUT: Lebanon signed a deal on Tuesday to import natural gas from Egypt via Syria to boost power supply by an additional four hours a day amid round-the-clock cuts. Grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis, Lebanon launched talks with Egypt last year to import gas through the Arab Gas Pipeline, which passes through Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.


On Tuesday, Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad and Syrian and Egyptian officials signed a final version of the agreement in Beirut.


"The importance of this deal... stems from the fact that it will secure an additional four hours of electricity per day following its implementation'', Fayad told a press conference.


The deal is a part of wider efforts — which include a separate electricity deal with Jordan — to boost supply by 8 to 10 hours a day in the coming months, up from just two currently.


Implementation of both agreements still needs World Bank funding and US assurances that they won't trigger sanctions under the so-called Caesar Act which prohibits commercial dealings with Damascus.


"We hope that after today, all hurdles will have been cleared so that we can receive World Bank funding and... final guarantees from the US, especially with regard to sanctions'', Fayad said.


Syria stands to gain gas from Egypt as an in-kind payment for its part in the deal, but will not receive funds, Fayad said in January.


Two years into Lebanon's economic meltdown, the cash-strapped state is struggling to purchase fuel for its power stations.


With mains electricity effectively non-existent, many rely on private generators, but prices have increased after the government lifted fuel subsidies as global fuel prices soared.


Lebanon's crumbling electricity sector has cost the country more than $40 billion since the end of its 1975-1990 civil war.


Successive governments have failed to cut down on losses, repair crumbling infrastructure or even collect electricity bills regularly across the country. — AFP


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