RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia said Friday, February 19, it has halted a $3 billion program for military supplies to Lebanon in protest against Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group fighting in support of Syria’s regime.
In light of positions taken by Hezbollah the kingdom proceeded to “a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic,” an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency.
It added that the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese security forces had been suspended, in a separate decision.
The $3 billion program funded military equipment provided by France.
A Lebanese military source told Agence France-Presse that the “Lebanese army command hasn’t been informed” of the Saudi aid halt.
Lebanon received the first tranche of weapons designed to bolster its army against jihadist threats, including anti-tank guided missiles, in April last year but the program then reportedly ran into obstacles.
In June a French diplomatic source denied that the deal had been cancelled but said there were delays, while the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the agreement was proceeding normally.
Alleged leaders of Lebanon-based Hezbollah are under sanction by Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah is supported by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, with whom relations have worsened this year.
Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran last month after demonstrators stormed its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric and activist.
The official quoted by the Saudi Press Agency said the kingdom had noticed “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the State”.
Syria’s war has exacerbated political rivalries within Lebanon, which has been without a president for almost two years because of fierce disagreements between Hezbollah and its rivals.
The official cited by Saudi Press Agency said Lebanon had not joined condemnation of the attacks on its diplomatic missions in Iran, either at the Arab League or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
He also deplored the “political and media campaigns inspired by Hezbollah against Saudi Arabia,” as well as the group’s “terrorist acts against Arab and Muslim nations”.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday accused Turkey and Saudi Arabia of dragging the entire region into war and said “victory” was imminent for his group and its Syrian regime allies.
Nasrallah said the two countries have been pushing to send international ground forces to Syria because they “are not ready to accept a political solution to the conflict in Syria, which is why they want to continue the war and destroy it”.
Saudi Arabia supports rebels opposed to Syria’s government. – Rappler.com