Syria gas pipelines damaged by fires

BEIRUT Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:55am EDT

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Two explosions hit two minor gas pipelines in eastern Syria Wednesday, residents said, but the official state news agency said a pipeline had caught fire due to either dry weather conditions or a leakage in the line.

State news agency, SANA, quoted an official at the Oil Ministry as saying the fire was probably started due to dry conditions igniting nearby vegetation, or a leak in the line.

"An inquiry has started ... most likely the fire was caused by a fire in the nearby grass or leakage in the line.. which is under construction," SANA said.

The residents said bomb blasts damaged the pipelines in a heavily guarded area in al-Tayana and Busaira regions east of the provincial capital Deir al-Zor, near the border with Iraq, the scene of large protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

"People are suspecting that the regime is behind the attacks to discredit the democracy cause after months of peaceful demonstrations," Sheikh Nawaf al-Khatib, a prominent tribal leader, told Reuters by phone.

"It is very difficult to hit those pipelines with more troops deploying in Deir al-Zor lately."

(Editing by Jon Hemming)