Parliament to discuss oil exploration, Palestinian rights


The parliament is scheduled to discuss during its Tuesday’s session the oil exploration draft law and the rights of Palestinians amid fears of renewed bickering among political foes over the two issues.

Future bloc MP Ghazi Youssef and Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil visited Energy Minister Gebran Bassil on Monday night to find a consensual solution to the oil exploration draft law.

While Bassil is demanding the formation of a higher committee headed by President Michel Suleiman to manage the oil sector’s revenues, Future Movement MPs are calling for the formation of a ministerial committee as the governing body of the sector.

Bassil is also insisting on assigning negotiations with oil exploration companies to only one cabinet minister while Future wants such talks to be headed by a ministerial committee headed by the prime minister.

Informed parliamentary sources told An Nahar daily that efforts are still underway to find a solution. If a deal is reached before Tuesday’s session, the oil exploration drat law would be proposed to parliament as a single clause. If differences persist, then lawmakers would discuss each clause separately.

However, Khalil was more optimistic, saying agreement was reached on the governing body. He told As Safir newspaper that an agreement was also reached on the establishment of a sovereign oil fund to be followed by a law that regulates its operations and how to use its revenues.

MP Mohammed Qabbani, on the other hand, denied any deal was reached over the sticking points in the oil exploration draft law.

Al-Hayat sources said that Bassil, Khalil and Youssef reached no understanding because the minister insists on unilaterally managing the oil sector without giving the finance ministry any role.

Other sources told the newspaper that the oil exploration and Palestinian rights draft laws could lead to political bickering in parliament on Tuesday.


In a related development, Lebanon may auction rights within the next 12 months for undersea oil and natural-gas exploration, spurred by energy projects in the waters off neighboring Israel, an adviser to the country’s parliament speaker said.

Ali Hamdan said in a telephone interview from Beirut on Monday. “There is a big chance for the law to be voted tomorrow, and it will be an important step to start the process of organizing tenders for interested companies within a year,” he said.