Saudis to Lebanon: Here's $3B for Your Army
Diplomatic move with France as Syrian conflict threatens to spill over
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 29, 2013 10:43 AM CST
Mourners of Mohammed Chatah, a senior aide to former Lebanese PM Saad Hariri, who was assassinated Friday, weep as people carry his coffin in Martyrs' Square in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013.   (Bilal Hussein)
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(Newser) – With an eye on neighboring Syria's backslide into violence, Saudi Arabia is pledging $3 billion to Lebanon to buy weapons from France in order to shore up its army. "I am happy to tell the Lebanese people that the Saudi ruler will give a grant of $3 billion to strengthen the army," President Michel Sleiman said in a surprise announcement today carried by a state news agency. He called the largest-ever pledge for Lebanon's army, and said French President Francois Hollande was to discuss the matter during his visit today to Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for Hollande said he did not yet have details; in a separate report, the AP notes that Saudi Arabia's increasing frustration with US foreign policy in the Mideast has led it to reach out to France.

Lebanon has seen a wave of deadly bombings and shootings that have fueled fears that the country, which suffered a brutal 15-year civil war of its own that only ended in 1990, could be slowly slipping back toward full-blown sectarian conflict. In a nod to those concerns, Sleiman said in his address that "Lebanon is threatened by sectarian conflict and extremism," and said that strengthening the army is a popular demand.
 

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