Lebanon to Receive Tanks from France via Saudi Arabia
Lebanon is to receive a number of tanks as a "gift" from France via Saudi Arabia, Lebanon’s defense minister, Khalil Hrawi, was quoted as saying by the Daily Star newspaper Tuesday.
The French-built tanks will be the most significant addition in almost two decades to the military's aging fleet of armor, said the paper.
The deal to transfer the AMX-30 tanks to Lebanon was agreed during talks in Paris last week between Hrawi and his French counterpart, Alain Richard.
Hrawi was a member of a ministerial delegation, headed by Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which spent three days in the French capital promoting investments in Lebanon.
No delivery date has been set as the arrangement hinges on Saudi Arabia agreeing to purchase the new Leclerc tank from France's Giat Industries, said the paper.
Giat hopes to sell some 355 Leclerc tanks and 38 recovery vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
But the kingdom has insisted on disposing of its AMX-30s before deciding on whether to accept the Leclerc.
France sold 290 AMX-30s to Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s, but it is believed that fewer than half are still serviceable.
Saudi Arabia reportedly plans to sell around 30 AMX-30s to Tunisia, said the paper.
France is considering a Saudi demand to buy back the remaining AMX-30s in exchange for Riyadh's agreeing to purchase the Leclerc.
"We have a promise from France that whenever Saudi Arabia hands over the tanks, we will receive some," Hrawi told The Daily Star.
The London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper was quoted by the paper as saying Friday that the deal involved 62 AMX-30s, but Hrawi said the quantity was unknown.
Hrawi also agreed with his French counterpart that France would repair the army's stock of around 30 French-built Panhard AML-90 anti-tank vehicles.
The minister denied, however, that the additional tanks and repair work signaled a general upgrade of the military's armored capabilities, accoridng to the Daily Star.
"We are not re-arming the army," he said. "We are accepting the AMX because it is better than the tanks we have now."
Giat Industries introduced the AMX-30 in 1968 and has since sold 2,300 to 12 armies.
The 36-ton tank is operated by a crew of four and is armed with a 105-millimeter main gun with a maximum range of 2,000 meters.
The Lebanese Army is presently equipped with 304 tanks, of which 212 are Soviet T-54 and T-55s. The remaining vehicles are versions of the American M-48 Patton, the US Army's main tank in the 1960s. Lebanon received two deliveries of the M-48, the first in the 1970s and the second in 1983, according to the paper – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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