CAIRO — Egypt's oil minister Sameh Fahmi has said the government is considering reducing drilling in the Gulf of Suez after crude washed ashore for several days, a state-owned newspaper reported.
Environmental groups sounded the alarm last week after oil began to appear on the shores of the popular Red Sea diving resort Hurghada.
"The minister said a decrease in the number of oil rigs in the Gulf of Suez was under consideration," the Al-Akhbar newspaper reported.
Fahmi also pledged to "apply the law against any party proven to be the source of the leak," it added.
An oil ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cause of the leaked oil had not yet been discovered and that Fahmi's proposal was simply an "option."
He said the oil could have come from a ship emptying its tanks, or from a sabotaged oil rig.
The prime minister's spokesman Magdy Rady said a spillage from an oil rig was the "probable cause" of the leak, adding that an investigation was ongoing to determine the source of the pollution.
Egypt produces about 700,000 barrels a day and the oil ministry says there are 188 rigs operating in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, where the country's largest oil field, Belayim, is located.
The oil ministry estimates that no more than 30 barrels of oil were leaked, a figure disputed by environmental activists.
"There was a lot of oil," said Amr Ali, who manages the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency.
Ali agreed with the ministry that the damage was limited and most of the oil was removed, but said cleaning efforts focused on Hurghada and so far have ignored two affected islands about 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from the resort.
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