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
Saudis to Lebanon: Here's $3B for Your Army
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)

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. (More Lebanon stories.)

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