Saudi Arabia cancels $4bn in aid for Lebanon army over Hezbollah

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Gulf kingdom, which is tackling a significant budget deficit, says it has re-evaluated relations with Lebanon over militant group's policies

The Lebanon-based militant group is fighting in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad (AFP)
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Friday 19 February 2016 19:03 UTC
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Saudi Arabia said on Friday that it is halting a $3 billion programme for military supplies to Lebanon in protest against Hezbollah, the militant group fighting in support of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

The kingdom carried out to "a total evaluation of its relations with the Lebanese republic" in light of positions taken by the group, an unnamed official told the Saudi Press Agency.

It added that the remainder of a $1 billion financing package for Lebanese security forces had also been suspended, in a separate decision.

The $3 billion programme financed military equipment provided by France.

A Lebanese military source told AFP 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 militant threats, including anti-tank guided missiles, in April last year, but the programme 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 maintained that 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 after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Saudi Shia cleric and activist.