August 3, 2006

Lebanon oil spill spreads to Syrian coast: UN

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Oil leaking from a bombed power station
in Lebanon has reached the coastline of neighboring Syria and
is spreading north, the Kenya-based United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP) said.

Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jiyyeh plant south of
the Lebanese capital Beirut at the beginning of the war,
spilling an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 metric tons of oil into
the Mediterranean.

"Satellite imagery ... now shows that the oil slick has
entered Syrian waters and has already contaminated
approximately 10 km of coastline north of the borders between
Syria and Lebanon," UNEP said in a statement issued late on

The spill has already polluted over 80 km (50 miles) of
Lebanon's coastline, the statement said.

Lebanon's Environment Ministry has called it the worst
environmental disaster to hit the Arab state.

Local ecologists say the oil is especially threatening
since fish spawn and sea turtles, including the endangered
green turtle, nest on Lebanon's coast.

The conflict between Israel and Lebanon-based Hizbollah
flared after militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a July
12 raid.

"An environmental catastrophe is threatening the
Mediterranean region ... hostilities must cease to guarantee
immediate access to the affected area," said Paul Misfud,
coordinator for UNEP-Mediterranean Action Plan.