The Egyptian government was looking to buy back 1.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas sold to Israel as part of the deal signed in 2005, according to a Tuesday report by Egyptian daily al-Shaab.

Anonymous sources told al-Shaab that internal discussions at Egypt's Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources decided that over half of the natural gas sold to Israel under the deal would have to be repurchased at $14 billion, even though it was sold for $2 billion.

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Cairo officials had previously blamed the gas deal with Israel as the main reason for the increase in power outages experienced by Egyptians since 2004, as less natural gas is provided for use by domestic power suppliers, AFP reported last Sunday.

Egypt's ruling party has been embarrassed by the increased power cuts to the population and ensuing fights between government officials over who bears responsibility for the problem,  according to the independent daily al-Shorouk report cited by AFP.

The issue may become an important one as the fight to succeed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gains momentum.

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