Saudi halts $3 bn in aid to Lebanon army
Saudi Arabia said Friday it has stopped a $3 billion program for military supplies to Lebanon in protest against Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group fighting in support of Syria’s regime.
In response, Lebanon’s PM Tammam Salam urged Saudi to reconsider the suspension of the package.
In light of positions taken by Hezbollah the kingdom proceeded to “a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic”, an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency earlier.
The kingdom’s loyal Gulf allies, the UAE and Bahrain, expressed support for Saudi’s decision.
Saudi added that the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese security forces had been suspended, in a separate decision.
The $3 billion program financed military equipment provided by France.
Lebanon received the first tranche of weapons designed to bolster its army against miliatnt threats, including anti-tank guided missiles, in April last year but the program then reportedly ran into obstacles.
Alleged leaders of Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah is supported by Iran.
In the statement, the Saudi official said Riyadh had always stood with Lebanon and supported the country through difficult times.
“Despite these honourable stands, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been met with Lebanese stands that are against it on Arab, regional and international arenas, in the shadow of the confiscation of the will of the state by the so-called Lebanese Hezbollah,” the statement said.
Hezbollah is the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim group that wields major power in Lebanon. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is the arch-regional rival of Shi’ite Iran.
The SPA statement said Lebanon, at recent meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, had failed to condemn “the blatant aggression on the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad,” last month.
It was referring to an attack by Iranian demonstrators protesting over the execution by Riyadh of a Saudi Shiite convicted of incitement to violence.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran over the attacks on its missions.