DAMASCUS: Syria announced Tuesday it has found a promising gas field in the central governorate of Homs, as Human Rights Watch urged the European Union to freeze the assets of Syria’s state oil and gas companies. “The first wells were drilled at Qara in Homs governorate and the flow rate is 400,000 cubic meters per day.” Oil Minister Sufian Allawi was quoted as saying by state news agency SANA.

“This discovery opens new perspectives in the region of Qalamun and the Syrian company will continue its drilling,” said Allawi, adding that the field was located in the Basin of Dau.

He said Syria’s natural gas production has reached 30.29 million cubic meters per day, up by 3 million cubic meters since last year. Oil production in Syria is about 380,000 barrels per day, Allawi added.

Syria has partially replaced oil with gas as fuel in its power stations on falling crude production.

The nation’s gas reserves, estimated at 284 billion cubic meters, may increase after new discoveries in many parts of the country, Allawi added.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the European Union should freeze the assets of the Syrian National Oil Company, Syrian National Gas Company and the Central Bank of Syria until Damascus “ends gross human rights abuses against its citizens.”

The rights advocacy group said the state-run oil and gas companies have a 50 percent share in every oil and gas project in Syria.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries to stop buying Syrian oil and gas in a bid to pressure President Bashar Assad to end a brutal crackdown on protesters.

“We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history,” Clinton said.

In a March 2010 report, the International Monetary Fund estimated that the Syrian government earns approximately 2.1 billion euros ($3 billion) from oil and gas revenues per year.

Most of Syria’s oil is used domestically, but it exports approximately 150,000 barrels per day. Around 95 percent of that goes to Europe, primarily to Italy, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2011, on page 4.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)