- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

From combined dispatches
WAZZANI, Lebanon A water-pumping station in southern Lebanon that Israel said could be grounds for war has been supplying parched villages near the border with Israel for three months.
A U.S. State Department envoy was sent to the region in November to defuse tensions that arose because waters from the Wazzani Spring feed Lebanon's Hasbani River, a tributary of the Jordan River that reaches the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main fresh-water reservoir.
The spring is about a half-mile from Israel's northern border, near the divided village in the Golan Heights that Israel calls Rajar and Arabs on the Lebanese side of the U.N. demarcation call Ghajar.
The envoy met with Israeli officials, including Yohav Biran, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry, and with Palestinian officials, Agence France-Presse reported, to discuss a peace "road map" drawn up by U.N., U.S., EU and Russian officials, and based on ideas set out by President Bush.
Lebanon does not seek confrontation with Israel over the water dispute, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri told United Press International in an interview in Beirut.
The opening of the Wazzani pumping station led Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to say it could cause a serious escalation in tensions between the two countries. He said Israel could not agree to unilateral steps and retained the right to defend its waters in accordance with international law.
Lebanon, Mr. Hariri said, also wants to protect its water rights. "We asked the U.N., U.S., EU and Russia to help us in defining the quantity of water" that Lebanon can obtain from the Wazzani according to the international laws, Mr. Hariri said.
He told UPI he believes the status quo will continue.
"Maybe the political situation in the region does not allow peace, but it does not mean that the alternative is war," Mr. Hariri said.
The Wazzani River flows for about two miles inside Lebanon before entering Israel.
With the additional 140 million-plus cubic feet of water per year it began to pump from the Wazzani in the fall, Lebanon will have a combined 353 million cubic feet per year from the Wazzani and Hasbani rivers, well below the 1.2 billion cubic feet allowed under a 1995 agreement.
Israel is estimated to use 5.3 billion cubic feet of water per year from the two rivers.

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