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Cyprus to launch new hydrocarbons licensing
February 16, 2009

NICOSIA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Cyprus plans to launch a new licensing round for hydrocarbons in offshore blocks in the eastern Mediterranean on July 1, a senior energy official said on Thursday.

"We intend, subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers, to announce a second exploration round on July 1," said Solon Kassinis, head of Cyprus's energy service at the Cypriot Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The government had announced its first licensing round in 2007. The number of offshore blocks subject to licencing in the new round was not disclosed.

Cyprus's first attempt to tap speculated deepwater reserves in the eastern Mediterranean last year angered its northern neighbour Turkey, which invaded the Mediterranean island in 1974 after a brief Greek inspired coup.

"The second round will be for the blocks left from the first (licencing) round," Kassinis told Reuters.

The precise number of blocks available in the second round would be known when the licencing process for the first round is completed, he said.

War-divided Cyprus had offered 11 blocks in total in last year's licencing round, getting bids for three of the blocks from companies based in the U.S., Britain, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey, which supports a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in north Cyprus, had argued that the move could further entrench a stalemate in reunification efforts over Cyprus.

The exploration area covers 70,000 square kilometres lying south and south-east of Cyprus, over the Eratostethes Seamount, the Levant Basin and the prolific Nile Delta. (source: Reuters UK)

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