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Saudi and France finalise $3bn Lebanese arms deal

Saudi-French arms deal for Lebanese army signed to boost anti-militants capability
A Lebanese man drives a scooter down a damaged street in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh Sunni neighbourhood on 28 October 2014 after three days of fierce fighting between Lebanese forces and armed Islamists (AFP)

Saudi Arabia and France have finalised an agreement to deliver $3 billion worth of French weapons to the Lebanese army, which is facing threats from Islamic militants, news sites reported today.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the conclusion of the deal, which was announced in December and will be financed by Saudi Arabia, would boost the Lebanese army’s ability to deal with “terrorism”, the Paris-based Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency reported.

The deal comes at a time when Lebanon is facing mounting threats from Islamic State militants in neighbouring Syria, and from militant activity in Tripoli, the country’s second-largest city.

On Monday, the Lebanese army arrested seven people, including Lebanese and Syrians, in Tripoli in an ongoing crackdown against Islamist militants.  

The agreement was signed in the Saudi capital Riyadh by Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf and Edouard Guillaud, head of the ODAS organisation set up by France for the export of defence equipment, AFP reported citing an unnamed diplomat.

Lebanon’s army chief Jean Kahwagi was also present at the signing ceremony, AFP and Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported.

Details of the list of weapons to be supplied and the date of delivery have yet to be revealed.

The Lebanese army has also been offered military equipment by Iran, which backs Lebanon’s powerful Shia militia group Hezbollah. If accepted, this would complicate efforts by Saudi Arabia and the US, which trains and equips the Lebanese army, to use it as a counter to Hezbollah, the Washington Post reported today.

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