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Lebanon using diplomacy to counter Israel over offshore energy tender

BEIRUT (Reuters) - President Michel Aoun said on Thursday that Lebanon was using diplomatic means to counter Israel’s stance regarding an offshore energy block in disputed territory on their maritime border.

On Wednesday Israel described as “very provocative” Lebanon’s first offshore oil and gas exploration tender and said it would be a mistake for international firms to participate.

Lebanon is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean where a number of big sub-sea gas fields have been discovered since 2009, including fields located in Israeli waters near the disputed border with Lebanon.

After meeting Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, Aoun tweeted, quoting Hariri as saying Lebanon was “confronting a big aggression relating to Lebanon’s oil wealth”.

Aoun said he and parliament speaker Nabih Berri had agreed to meet to discuss steps to confront “repeated Israeli threats” and called on Berri to “turn the page” on tensions between their political factions.

A row over comments about Berri by Aoun’s son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, has exacerbated a political standoff, threatening to ignite sectarian tensions in Lebanon before a planned election in May, and to paralyse government.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Angus McDowall; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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