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Lebanon seeking answers over Halliburton offshore Israel contract

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BEIRUT, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati has asked his foreign minister to seek clarification from the international community after Israel granted U.S. oilfield services group Halliburton an offshore drilling contract in the Mediterranean.

Lebanon and Israel are in dispute over the delineation of their territorial waters in the Mediterranean and negotiations between the old foes could lead to Lebanon being able to unlock valuable gas reserves amid its worst-ever financial crisis.

The two countries have been holding on-off U.S. mediated talks since October to try to resolve the issue.

"We will not back down on this issue or give up on Lebanese rights," Mikati was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.

Foreign minister Abdallah Bou Habib had reached out to Lebanon's permanent U.N. representative, the U.S. embassy and other countries backing the maritime talks to make sure the Halliburton contract does not involve work in the disputed areas, a statement by the foreign ministry said.

Israeli authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Halliburton's contract was awarded after a previous four offshore well drilling campaign off Israel's coast. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem; Editing by David Holmes)

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