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Egypt, Jordan sign natural gas pipeline accord

Egypt and Jordan have signed a preliminary accord to build ...

Egypt and Jordan have signed a preliminary accord to build an overland natural gas pipeline from the Egyptian Mediterranean town of El-Arish to the Jordanian resort town of Aqaba on the Red Sea, an Egyptian oil ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

Hamdi Abdelaziz told Dow Jones Newswires that the pipeline accord, signed by Egypt's Oil Minister Sameh Fahmy and Jordan's Energy Minister Wael Sabri in Cairo on Tuesday, would get a final approval from the Egyptian government next week.

He said the pipeline is the first stage of a dlrs 1 billion deal signed by Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in January to export Egyptian natural gas to markets in the Middle East and Europe through two pipelines.

Abdelaziz said Egypt's Middle East Gas Company and other undisclosed companies would build the pipeline from Egypt to Jordan within 18 months.

Initially, the plan was to build an underground pipeline from El-Arish to Tripoli (in northern Lebanon) but it was discovered that dlrs 300 million could be saved if the pipeline was built on land, he said.

Abdelaziz said a second pipeline would be later built from Aqaba to Syria and Lebanon.

Natural gas discoveries in Egypt have increased in the past decade with foreign companies such as BP Amoco PLC, Italy's ENI and the Apache of the United States buying exploration rights and forming joint ventures with the government to build liquefied natural gas plants to export gas to Spain and Turkey.

Egypt's gas reserves are estimated at 75 trillion cubic feet, of which 53 trillion are proven.