Saudi, France sign $3 billion arms deal with Lebanese army

Published November 4th, 2014 - 04:04 GMT

Saudi Arabia and France signed a $3 billion grant to equip the Lebanese army Tuesday, nearly a year after Riyadh announced the offer.

According to Lebanon's National News Agency, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assad and Edouard Guillaud, the head of the ODAS organization set up by France for the export of defense equipment, signed the final agreement.

Lebanese army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi was also present at the ceremony, the diplomat said, without giving details on the list of weapons to be supplied, a clause that had stalled the agreement for months, AFP quoted a French diplomatic source as saying.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hailed the conclusion of the deal as a major boost to the Lebanese army's ability to tackle "terrorism" at a time when the former French colony is under mounting threat, AFP reported.

The French foreign minister said: "This agreement, financed through Saudi aid, will contribute to strengthening the Lebanese army, guarantor of Lebanon's unity and stability.

"It will help it to carry out its mission to defend national territory and fight terrorism, at a time when Lebanon is under threat."

A source quoted by AFP Monday said the deal would be “rapidly implemented” with the first arms shipment to be delivered “within a month.”

The Saudi aid was announced late last year, but Riyadh has reportedly held back on finalizing the deal over concerns that the weapons could benefit its archfoe Hezbollah.

The deal, first announced in December by former President Michel Sleiman, comes as the poorly equipped Lebanese Army battles jihadists in the north and along its border with war-torn Syria.

Lebanon has been engaged in battles with Islamist militants on its soil with the recent fighting in the northern city of Tripoli last month killing 11 soldiers and at least 28 militants.

The Lebanese army engaged in fierce clashes in August with fighters from Nusra Front and ISIS who attempted to overrun the northeastern town of Arsal.

After the Arsal clashes, the US has also provided the army with several shipments of arms including sophisticated equipment and training.

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