U.S. Reportedly Tells Hariri Veto Lifted on Attack Helicopters
U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told Prime Minister Saad Hariri during their meeting in Rome on Thursday that the U.S. Congress had lifted a veto on providing the Lebanese Army with attack helicopters, a media report said.
The Congress' move came a day before the Rome II Conference that was aimed at rallying support for Lebanon's army and security forces, al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying.
The U.S. decision to grant Lebanon attack helicopters was first disclosed during a December visit by the head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel to Lebanon.
American Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said a new assistance package, valued at more than $120 million, includes six new light attack helicopters, six unmanned aerial vehicles and communication and night vision devices.
She said the equipment will help the army "build on its steady strong capability to conduct border security and counterterrorism operations."
According to a U.S. Embassy statement, the U.S. will grant Lebanon "six new MD 530G light attack helicopters and associated equipment and training, valued at more $94 million.”
Washington has been a major supporter of Lebanon's army, and has provided more than $1 billion in military assistance to Lebanon since 2006.