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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 22:25 GMT 23:25 UK
Lebanese press debates water war
The Hezbollah flag flying in Southern Lebanon
Hezbollah dominates much of Southern Lebanon (AFP)
The war of words over the use of water from the Hasbani and Wazzani rivers in southern Lebanon dominated the front pages of the Lebanese press on Tuesday.

Al-Safir, an independent nationalist daily, said that the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, has warned Israel that the current project will not satisfy Lebanon's water needs.

The paper reported that the Shia leader had called on the UN to intervene in the dispute by drawing a new "Blue Line" - similar to the UN-patrolled border established when Israel withdrew from South Lebanon.


The current project will not be enough for us. We have the right to much more than this

Nabih Berri
"Nabih Berri called for the creation of a "Blue Line of water" with Israel, and action to completely regain the right to use Lebanese water as is now the case with Lebanese land."

One of the paper's editorials warned that relying on US experts could harm Lebanon's interests, and sounded a note of caution about the drawing of a new Blue Line.

"Turning to the United States as a mediator is not a reassuring move. Lebanon cannot afford to delay the drawing of its full share [of water] immediately because it fears that the US mediation might result in the establishment of another Blue Line that would gradually turn into a permanent border line."

However the moderate Christian paper al-Nahar argued that forcing the Israeli government to respect a new Blue Line in the South could be difficult.

"As for the "Blue Line of water" which Nabih Berri is calling for the UN to draw...Sharon will respect it no more than a line drawn on water."

The moderate centrist daily al-Anwar welcomed the presence of US water experts.

The river Hasbani flows through lands once controlled by Israel.
"It is not in Lebanon's interest to fear water experts, even if they are American... There is no contradiction in saying that the UN is the authority on this issue which will make a decision in international law, and letting American experts study the problem on the ground."

The French-language paper, L'Orient - Le Jour argued that despite the talk of war Israel is unlikely to want a conflict while an attack on Iraq is imminent.

"At the end of the day, according to a number of observers, the USA will not allow the opening of a second front in the South at the same time it is preparing to strike Iraq.

"These sources believe that in essence, Israel will accept that Lebanon can provide a small amount of water to the villages - on condition that this is kept under surveillance," the paper says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

16 Sep 02 | Middle East
10 Sep 02 | Middle East
28 Mar 01 | Middle East
24 Jun 00 | Middle East
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