Saudi Arabia has pledged to give the Lebanese army $3 billion in aid, Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman has announced. The aid pledge comes amid mounting sectarian tensions in Lebanon linked to the Syrian conflict.
In televised address to the nation on Sunday, Lebanon's president said Saudi Arabia's multi-billion-dollar aid offer was designed to support and strengthen the nation's armed forces.
The kingdom "decided to provide generous assistance to Lebanon in the form of $3 billion, [2.2 billion euros], for the Lebanese army to strengthen its capabilities," President Michel Sleiman said, describing the grant as the largest ever given to the Lebanese army.
Sleiman indicated some of the money was likely to be spent on weapons from France, pointing to the "historical ties that link it to Lebanon and the depth of the military cooperation between the two countries." French President Francois Hollande is currently in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah.
Observers suggest Saudi Arabia's pledge could be designed to bolster the Lebanese army in order to counterbalance Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, which is funded by regional Shiite power, Iran.
Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Shiite offshoot Alawite sect, in fighting majority Sunni Muslim rebels. The Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is a key backer of the Syrian uprising.
The Lebanese army has also proved ill-equipped to deal with mounting sectarian clashes at home, related to the Syrian conflict. Lebanese Sunnis generally support the Syrian uprising leading to clashes at home between supporters and opponents of Hezbollah's intervention.
ccp/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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