BEIRUT, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Lebanon's cabinet approved a bid on Thursday for offshore energy exploration by a consortium made up of France's Total, Italy's ENI and Russia's Novatek, in the country's first oil and gas offshore licensing round, a government source told Reuters.
"Congratulations to the Lebanese people on the passing of the oil decree and on Lebanon entering the club of oil countries," Oil Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said on Twitter in response to the decision.
Lebanon sits on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean where a number of big sub-sea gas fields have been discovered since 2009, including the Leviathan and Tamar fields located in Israeli waters near the disputed marine border with Lebanon.
Data suggest there are reserves in Lebanon's waters, but so far no exploratory drilling has taken place to estimate reserve size.
The first licensing round for exploration and production rights was re-launched in January after a three-year delay due to political problems in the country.
Total-ENI-Novatek was the only consortium to submit an offer, bidding for block 4 and block 9 of the available five blocks. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Adrian Croft)