Lebanon’s Energy Ministry has delayed the tender for an offshore gas exploration licensing round for the third time after the cabinet failed to pass two decrees.

The proposed date of the tender has been pushed back by three months to 10 April after missing the 10 January deadline, caretaker Oil Minister Gebran Bassil told a press conference in Beirut.

The two decrees the government failed to pass were planned to define the offshore blocks and their coordinates, and outline the model exploration and production agreement.

The auction, which covers a 22,730-square-kilometre area offshore in the eastern Mediterranean, was initially set for 2 May 2013.

About 17 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been discovered at the Leviathan concession off the coast of Israel, which lies near the maritime border with Lebanon.

Bassil is trying to push through two decrees to protect Lebanon’s oil and gas reserves to prevent Israel from extracting any of the gas from what it considers its territory.

The caretaker minister criticised members of the Lebanese cabinet who opposed the passing of the two decrees, saying that “history will remember that some officials failed to do their job to help explore gas and oil in Lebanon”, according to a report in the Lebanon Star newspaper.