BEIRUT (AP) -- Energy Minister Gibran Bassil says Lebanon will begin oil and gas exploration within two years.
Bassil spoke on Friday while launching a pre-qualification process for companies that want to get licenses for oil and gas work off the Lebanese coast.
Lebanon is a resource-poor nation and any finds could help it pay off what is one of the highest debt rates in the world.
Bassil told reporters that exploration will begin at the end of 2015 and development would start the following year.
Recent Israeli discoveries of oil and gas have raised tensions between Lebanon and Israel, which are in a state of war.
Both countries claim a small maritime area of 850 square kilometers (328 square miles) in the Mediterranean.
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