Lebanon expects to start oil production in 2018 and will deposit the resulting revenues into a sovereign wealth fund, President Michel Aoun said.

"Everything that is extracted will be for the Lebanese people," he said during a meeting with a press syndicate delegation, according to Reuters.

Aoun said the revenues would be invested in development projects, and vowed to increase efforts to upgrade Lebanon's crumbling infrastructure, Reuters reported.

Lebanon has relaunched its first oil and gas exploration and production licensing round after a three-year delay, kick-starting the development of a hydrocarbon industry stalled by national political paralysis..

Minister of Energy and Water Cesar Abou Khalil said last week that Lebanon had opened five offshore blocks for bidding in a first licensing round.

Early January, Lebanon's new government passed two decrees for demarcating energy blocks and established tendering.

The cabinet formed ministerial committees to study a petroleum tax draft law and another proposed law governing onshore oil resources. The cabinet also discussed the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to manage the oil and gas revenue.

Beirut estimates it has 96 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore, but squabbling between parties had prevented it from kick-starting exploration and development of the sector.

In 2013, 46 companies qualified to take part in bidding for oil and gas tenders, 12 of them as operators, including Chevron, Total and Exxon Mobil.

Beirut hopes exploiting the hydrocarbon reserves will help tackle its debt and power shortages, which see most homes go without electricity or rely on generators for many hours a day.

Political paralysis left Lebanon without a president for more than two years. In October, Michel Aoun was elected president in a deal that saw Hariri become prime minister.

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