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Saudi Arabia to keep $3bn of weapons originally ordered for Lebanon

Riyadh's foreign minister says French arms order will be 'going to Saudi Arabia, not Hezbollah' after cancelling aid programme
Saudi Arabia and the GCC last week branded Hezbollah a terrorist organisation (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has said the kingdom will keep French military supplies previously intended for Lebanon under a $3bn aid programme, as Riyadh toughens its stance against Hezbollah while also leading a coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Last month, Riyadh halted the aid intended for the Lebanese army after Beirut failed to condemn attacks against Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Saudi state media quoted officials as saying the Shia group Hezbollah had placed pressure on Lebanon's government not to speak out against the attacks.

Hezbollah is fighting in support of Syria's Bashar al-Assad, whose forces Saudi Arabia opposes.

"We didn't stop the contract. It's just going to Saudi Arabia, not to Hezbollah," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a news conference in Paris on Saturday.

"We have a situation where Lebanon's decisions have been hijacked by Hezbollah. The contracts will be completed, but the clients will be the Saudi military."

On Wednesday the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council declared Hezbollah, which has lawmakers in the Lebanese parliament, a "terrorist" group.

It is the latest step against the organisation as ties between its main backer Iran and regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia deteriorate.

Saudi has also accused Hezbollah of supporting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, against whom Riyadh has led a bombing campaign since March 2015.

Gulf monarchies had already sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013 in reprisal for its armed intervention in Syria.