updated 2/6/2008 3:30:21 PM ET 2008-02-06T20:30:21

After Internet disruptions and slowdowns engulfed a large swath of the Middle East and India, a new, more resilient cable is being laid in the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and France, a spokesman for the cable-owner FLAG Telecom said Wednesday.

The new line — known as the FLAG Mediterranean Cable — will provide a different route from the severed cables and be "fully resilient" against cuts like last week's, according to FLAG, which stands for Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe.

"We are still treating this as a crisis," a FLAG spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with company policy. "But the new cable will provide a diversity in routes and be more resilient."

The company said a second repair ship has reached a spot about 5 miles north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria, where two Internet cables were cut last Wednesday.

Repairs on a third cable, between the Emirates and Oman, that was cut Friday also have begun as another FLAG vessel arrived at the site 35 miles north of Dubai in the Persian Gulf.

The two unusual incidents slowed businesses and hampered personal Internet usage in the Middle East and India. Governments in the region appeared to operate normally, apparently because they switched to backup satellite systems.

The FLAG spokesman said the company was still trying to determine how the cables were cut. He declined to comment on whether the two incidents were somehow linked but said he didn't believe the company was deliberately targeted.

There has been widespread speculation the cuts were caused by ships' anchors dragging along the bottom of the sea in stormy weather. But Egypt's telecommunication ministry said Sunday no ships were registered near the location when the first two cables were cut.

FLAG said the repair on those two cuts will be completed within six to seven days. The two cables were identified as being owned by FLAG and SEA-ME-WE 4, or South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe 4 cable, owned by a consortium of 16 international telecommunication companies.

The company has said it was able to fully restore circuits to some customers and switch others to alternative routes.

The FLAG spokesman did not elaborate on what made the new Egypt-to-France cable different from the ones that were severed but said it would take months to set up.

Egyptian media reported last week that state Telecom Egypt "sealed a deal" with an unnamed partner for a new 1,900-mile-long undersea cable between Egypt and France that would take more than 18 months to complete.

Large-scale Internet disruptions are rare, but East Asia suffered nearly two months of outages and slow service after an earthquake damaged undersea cables near Taiwan in December 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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