Lebanon's energy minister on Thursday said his country plans to outline its maritime sea borders and auction off rights to explore potential offshore natural gas and petrol reserves by 2012.
"Now that the law on the exploration of offshore oil and gas reserves has been passed by parliament, we expect to begin the licensing process for the exploration of the reserve in 2012, barring political hurdles," Gibran Bassil said at a news conference.
Lebanese MPs on Tuesday passed the law, which calls for the establishment of a treasury and a committee to oversee exploration and drilling off Lebanon, a Mediterranean country without known oil reserves.
Bassil said Lebanon was close to an agreement on maritime borders with Cyprus and was unilaterally working on outlining its sea borders with Israel before submitting them to the UN Security Council.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically in a state of war and have no diplomatic ties.
Ali Hamdan, an advisor to Lebanese speaker Nabih Berri, on Tuesday told AFP he expected rights to be up for auction by the end of 2011.
"This is definitely a major cornerstone in Lebanon's oil policy ... and will help Lebanon divide its reserves into blocks and eventually bring in tenders and start looking into power-sharing agreements," he added.
Norway-based Petroleum Geo-Services this year announced it had explored Lebanese waters which contained "valuable information" on potential offshore gas reserves in coordination with Lebanon's energy and water ministry.