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September 10, 2002

Don't Go Near The Water

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned that diverting water from the Hasbani river, which has its source in Lebanon, constitutes a "casus belli," or grounds for war, army radio reported.

The radio said Sharon made the statement at a special session with military and civilian officials after a meeting with his cabinet.

"The Hasbani supplies between 20 and 25 percent of the water flowing into Lake Galilee," said Shimon pat, an official at the ministry of agriculture.

The Hasbani rises in Lebanon and flows for around 50 kilometres (30 miles) through Lebanese territory before joining the River Jordan and emptying into Lake Galilee.

In March 2001 an Israeli military official accused the Lebanese of starting construction of a pumping system on their side of the border with Israel to stop the Hasbani's waters from entering Israel.

A spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon denied Beirut was siphoning off water from the Hasbani, saying that the works were to set up a pipe to provide water for a village hit by a shortage.