Saudi Arabia says it will keep French arms bound for Lebanon


PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday the kingdom will keep French military supplies previously intended for Lebanon under a $3 billion aid programme, as Riyadh toughens its stance against Hezbollah.

Last month the oil-rich Gulf state halted the programme in protest against Hezbollah, the Shia militant group fighting in support of Syria’s regime — which Saudi bitterly 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.

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

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

Last week Riyadh upped measures against the group, freezing assets and prohibiting dealings with three Lebanese nationals and four companies.


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