Lebanon denies Saudi arms grant is stalled

Lebanon denies Saudi arms grant is stalled
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Published December 29th, 2015 - 12:00 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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The first batch of Saudi-funded French weapons arrived in Beirut in April. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
The first batch of Saudi-funded French weapons arrived in Beirut in April. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

The $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army is on the right track, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said Monday, dismissing media reports that the deal had been stalled.

The Saudi grant is on the right track and has made its way toward the beginning of implementation contrary to what was said and rumored that it had been stalled,” Moqbel told the Central News Agency.

He said that the French weapons to be delivered to Lebanon under the Saudi grant would “greatly bolster the Army’s military capabilities and energies in assuming the missions assigned to it to confront the Israeli enemy on the one hand, and terror organizations on [Lebanon’s] eastern border on the other, protect Lebanon from the east to the south and the north and impose security.”

“The measures taken [to implement the arms deal] are reassuring. The Lebanese Army will be fully prepared to confront dangers threatening the country,” Moqbel said.

Lebanon received in April the first batch of French weapons funded by the $3 billion Saudi grant, which included armored vehicles, helicopters, truck-mounted cannons and Milan anti-tank missiles.

In addition to the $3 billion military aid, Saudi Arabia has also promised an additional $1 billion to purchase arms and equipment to the Lebanese security forces to help their ongoing battle against terrorism.

The deal was first announced in December 2013 by then-President Michel Sleiman.

Last month, the Lebanese Army Command denied that the Saudi arms deal was stalled.

“Work is underway with the concerned sides to complete the remaining stages, which include the manufacturing of the remaining arms by the concerned companies,” the Army said in a statement. “We have finished all the necessary paperwork but the deal isn’t ink on papers like some media said.”

The Central News Agency reported Monday that Lebanon would receive a new batch of Saudi-funded French arms next spring.

“The relevant Lebanese official agencies received yesterday [Sunday] a contact from the relevant authorities in Saudi Arabia indicating that the date agenda for arms deliveries to the Lebanese Army has been fully completed in agreement and coordination between the kingdom and France,” the agency said.

It added that France, under the tripartite agreement signed by the two countries and Lebanon, is responsible for supplying the Lebanese Army with weapons and ammunition demanded by its command.

The French weapons will be fully delivered to Lebanon within six years after the delivery period was extended as a result of amendments introduced to the arms list demanded by the Lebanese Army, the agency said, quoting unnamed sources.

It added Lebanon has been informed that the French company ODAS would begin in early 2016 signing contracts with some arms manufacturing companies

“Based on the delivery program, Lebanon is expected to begin receiving the vanguard of the Saudi grant next spring with the arrival of a batch of arms which are supposed to be manufactured at the beginning of the new year,” the agency said.

AFP has reported that France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar attack helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communication equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion modernization program.

The contract also promises seven years of training for the 70,000-strong Lebanese Army and 10 years of equipment maintenance.

In addition to an initial agreement signed by France and Saudi Arabia, a protocol agreement for the Saudi-funded arms deal was signed in April between senior Lebanese Army officers and officials from ODAS.

Acting on behalf of the French state, ODAS negotiates and signs government-to-government contracts for defense and security systems and services.

Copyright © 2015, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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