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      Jordan Grabs Egyptian Gas, Leaving Lebanon in the Dark

      Arab websites: Much of Lebanon was in the dark after Jordan diverted the little natural gas still flowing from Sinai for its own purposes.
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 2/8/2011, 11:57 PM / Last Update: 2/9/2011, 1:11 AM

      There have been widespread blackouts in Lebanon over the past several days, due to the lack of natural gas in the country, reports in the Arab media said Tuesday. Egypt on Saturday had stopped supplying natural gas to Israel, Lebanon and Jordan when a pipeline in Sinai blew up, and so far Israel has managed to find alternative sources - but Lebanon has not. Blackouts were common throughout the country, except for in Beirut, the reports said.

      Gas shipments were partially restored to Jordan and Lebanon this week, using another pipeline that does not run to Israel, but the amount of gas flowing through that pipe is much smaller. The pipeline flows through Jordan, and only then to Lebanon. According to reports on Lebanese websites, the Jordanians have taken all the gas, claiming that they are contractually allowed to do so –  leaving none for Lebanon. Electrical output in Lebanon was drastically reduced. Lebanon's main electric company, Electricite du Liban, said that they could not say when full power would be restored.

      Ampal, the Israeli partner of Egyptian natural gas provider EMG, said Tuesday that the gas will begin to flow from Egypt to Israel in about a week. The pipeline  is being repaired, and if tests show that it is working properly, Israel should begin getting its regular deliveries of gas again beginning a week from Thursday, the company said. Infrastructure Ministry officials said Tuesday that Israel was spending an extra $1.5 million a day for alternative gas sources.

      While Egypt officially attributed the blast to a gas leak, Arab media websites report that many in local government in Sinai believe that the blast was a targeted attack. Suspects range from Islamic radicals to involvement of “foreign elements” (meaning Israel). One theory states that the bombing may have been the work of disgruntled Sinai Bedouin; the company responsible for pipeline security recently began building a concrete wall on both sides of the pipeline to protect it, with parts of the wall encroaching on land several Bedouin tribes claim as their own.

      But that theory was dismissed by Mohamed Mostafa, a government official. The company relies on Bedouin to protect the line, Mostafa was quoted by Arab media as saying, and he appealed to the tribes to ensure the safety of the pipeline which generates much-needed income for Egypt, adding that to his knowledge, the Bedouin were properly compensated for the loss of the land they claimed.

      Meanwhile, a news scandal has broken out in the Arab world as a result of the explosion – over allegations that Qatar has promised to make up to Israel the gas that is no longer flowing from Sinai. Numerous Arabic websites, quoting what they called “informed sources” who said that Qatar made the commitment to increase gas shipments to Israel, based on a deal in which Qatar has sold gas for several years already. There was no comment from Qatari government officials on the reports.