Lebanon sues Israel over huge oil spill caused by bombing

Lebanon prepares to sue Israel over a huge oil spill caused by Israeli bombing of a power station during the recent conflict, the environment minister said Wednesday.

The spill has been described as Lebanon's worst-ever environmental disaster, and experts say it could take up to a year to clean it up.

"This is our right, and we believe they (the Israelis) have transgressed international law... they violated it," Environment Minister Yacoub Sarraf told The Associated Press.

Israeli warplanes in mid-July bombed the Jiyyeh power station on the Mediterranean coast some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Beirut.

The bombing spilled some 110,000 barrels (more than 4.6 million gallons) of oil into the sea, threatening marine life and the local fishing and tourism industries. The slick spread to 150 kilometers (about 95 miles) of Lebanon's coast and reached Syria's shoreline to the north.

Sarraf estimated the clean up cost at US$100 million (80 million euros), but he said the total loss from the bombing "far exceeds that figure."

"We are waiting for the feedback from the fishing and tourism industries to make a more thorough assessment," he said.

The minister said Lebanon would pursue the legal action against Israel on two levels, one at the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the second at the United Nations.

He explained that the legal action was being prepared by the Lebanese justice ministry and that it would be a "component" of an overall assessment by the Cabinet of compensation that Lebanon would seek for the damage that stemmed from the 34-day war.

Lebanon suffered damage to roads and other civilian infrastructure during the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas, which ended in a cease-fire on Aug.14.

Efforts to clean up the spill were blocked by the Israeli naval blockade, which was only lifted late last week, the AP rerorts.

Much of the coastline now fouled by oil was filled with tourists before the fighting broke out on July 12.