July 26, 2005

Dead Sea-Red Sea canal could cause quakes-official

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - The chairman of Egypt's Suez
Canal Authority objected Tuesday to a project to link the Dead
Sea and the Red Sea, saying it would increase the risk of
earthquakes in the Middle East.

"The two seas canal would lead to strong seismic activity
in the region because of the rush of water," Ahmed Ali Fadel
told a news conference at the canal headquarters. The canal,
designed to generate electricity for a desalination plant and
to prevent the Dead Sea from drying up, would carry 850 million
tonnes of water a year.

Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians signed an agreement in
May for a study into the building of the canal.

Fadel said the earthquake danger would be especially
serious because the earth's crust is thinner in the Gulf of
Aqaba then anywhere else on earth. The water would come from
the Gulf of Aqaba, which is part of the Red Sea, be pumped
uphill and then run down into the Dead Sea, which lies below
sea level.

The Egyptian official said the project would also provide
Israel with water for cooling its nuclear reactor at Dimona.

"Adding a desalination plant means turning the Negev Desert
area into an area of settlement after water and electricity are
provided," he added.

The salt water pumped into the Dead Sea would increase the
salinity of wells in neighboring countries. The Dead Sea is
already more saline than the Red Sea.

The Dead Sea-Red Sea canal would not pose a commercial
challenge to the Suez Canal because it would not carry