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Strong blast hits Egyptian gas pipeline: report

CAIRO — Saboteurs bombed an Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai peninsula for the fourth time since February, cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan, the official MENA news agency reported Tuesday.

The blast occurred near the town of al-Arish in the north of the Sinai peninsula, it said, adding that the ensuing “flames were up to 10 metres (32 feet) high.

“The area is being searched to find those behind this explosion and to find the type of explosives used,” it said.

It was the fourth attack on the gas pipeline since February, a time of political upheaval when an uprising toppled former president Hosni Mubarak and saw power handed over to a military council.

Egypt supplies about 40 percent of Israel‘s natural gas which is used to produce electricity.

Jordan, which buys 95 percent of its energy needs, imports about 240 million cubic feet (6.8 million cubic metres) of Egyptian gas a day, or 80 percent of its electricity requirements.

In April, Egypt‘s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf asked for the revision of all contracts to supply gas abroad, including to Israel.

Sharaf said the contracts would be revisited so the gas “would be sold with deserved prices that achieve the highest returns for Egypt.”

The controversial gas deal with Israel has been repeatedly challenged in Egyptian courts due to its secretive clauses and over prices, and because it was sealed without parliamentary consultation.

In May, Jordan said Egypt was withholding its contracted gas supply to energy-poor Jordan unless a new deal was signed at a higher price.

Under a 14-year deal signed in 2002, Egypt used to sell gas to Jordan at a discounted price — half of the market price, or $3 (2.16 euros) per million British Thermal Units (1,000 cubic feet of gas equals 1.027 million BTU).

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