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Report: Egypt to re-purchase natural gas sold to Israel

Aug. 23, 2010 1:33 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2010 9:10 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Egyptian government is seeking to re-buy approximately 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas it sold to Israel as the country faces a gas crisis, Egyptian media reported.

Unnamed sources told the Egyptian daily Ash-Sha'b that the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said at least half of the natural gas sold to Israel would have to be repurchased for $14 billion, although it was originally sold for $2 billion.

In January, the petroleum minister announced that Egypt would need to import natural gas to cover huge shortfalls in domestic-use gas and industrial diesel. He retracted his statement shortly after over concerns of a backlash from those opposed to exporting natural gas to Israel.

The minister had also said that Egypt's natural gas reserve would serve the country for 38 years, and said it was increasing particularly in the Mediterranean and Nile Delta.

The report follows increased anxiety in Egypt over ongoing power cuts and water cuts, and a surge in wheat prices, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday.

The independent daily Shorouk reported Saturday that the power outages and recriminations between the oil and electricity ministries over who is responsible for them have embarrassed the ruling party, AFP reported.

There is also renewed protest against a gas deal that supplies Israel with an estimated third of its natural gas consumption, with some linking the power cuts to gas shortages, the newspaper reported.

Despite concerns, the electricity minister said Egyptians would need to lower the electricity load during Ramadan, which began in the second of week of August.

However, Mohammd Awad, head of the Electricity Holding Company, said lowering loads was a normal procedure during the summer period, given the increased consumption of electricity from air conditioners and refrigerators.
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