Saudi halts $3bn in aid to Lebanon army


Riyadh: – Saudi Arabia said Friday it has halted a $3 billion programme for military supplies to Lebanon in protest against Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group fighting in support of Syria’s regime.

In light of positions taken by Hezbollah the kingdom proceeded to “a comprehensive review of its relations with the Lebanese republic”, an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency.

It added that the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese internal security forces had also been stopped, in a separate decision.

A Lebanese military source told AFP that the “Lebanese army command hasn’t been informed” of the Saudi aid halt.

Hezbollah, however, said the Saudi decision came as no surprise and “was taken quite some time ago”.

The $3 billion deal funded military equipment provided by France. The modernisation programme, known in France as Donas, aimed to ensure stability in a Lebanon weakened by internal divisions and threatened by jihadists.

Alleged leaders of Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah is supported by the kingdom’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran last month after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric and activist.

The official quoted by the Saudi Press Agency said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the State”.

Syria’s war has exacerbated political rivalries within Lebanon, which has been without a president for almost two years because of fierce disagreements between Hezbollah and its rivals.

The Saudi official said Lebanon had not joined condemnation of the attacks on its diplomatic missions in Iran, either at the Arab League or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

But France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later said “the execution of Donas resumed normally at the end of 2015”, as reflected in the signing of contracts with the companies concerned.

This included a deal for about 200 armoured vehicles.


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