Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat—Beirut and Paris have finalized a major arms deal, to be funded by a Saudi grant worth 3 billion US dollars, to bolster Lebanon’s military capabilities, local media in Lebanon reported on Thursday.
The deal, which will provide Lebanon with advanced weaponry, is expected to be officially announced during a March 5 international donors’ conference in Paris, according to Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper. The inaugural meeting of the donors’ conference, known as the Lebanon International Support Group, was held in September 2013.
A French official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Paris is ready to meet the requirements of the Lebanese army,” and that it is waiting for the Lebanese authorities to inform them of its military procurement requirements.
“French is not imposing any limits or technological restrictions on the types of arms wanted by Lebanon,” the official added.
The French source revealed that Lebanon’s military requirements fall into three main categories: mobility, firepower, and replacing outmoded equipment. These requirements will see Lebanon’s armed forces being provided with helicopters, armored vehicles and long-range missiles. The source confirmed that this will include High Subsonic Optical Remote-Guided Tube-Launched (HOT) missiles and a second-generation long-range anti-tank missile system, but not a comprehensive modern air defense system.
In December last year, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced that Riyadh had provided a major 3 billion US dollar grant to the country to purchase weapons from France. During a televised address, Suleiman announced that he had managed to secure “extraordinary support” for the Lebanese military from Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
“This support will contribute to confronting terrorism and helping UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] implement [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701,” Suleiman said.
The Lebanese president described the Saudi grant as “the biggest support in Lebanon’s history,” adding that it will allow the Lebanese army to meet its national and regional responsibilities.
“The initiative is an honest reflection of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to preserve Lebanon,” Suleiman said.