Exchange of Accusations in Delay on Arms Delivery under Saudi Grant

Saudi red tape has delayed the Lebanese army's purchase of French weapons under a $3 billion deal financed by Riyadh, diplomatic officials said despite a denial by Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri.

As Safir daily on Tuesday quoted the highly-informed French diplomatic sources as saying that the military assistance to Lebanon, which was announced by Saudi King Abdullah last December, was delayed after Riyadh put restrictive conditions.

Saudi authorities introduced a clause in the protocol that there would be a penalty on any side if it receives a commission on the purchase of French weapons, equipment and ammunition, the sources said.

A second clause imposes another penalty if the same weapons were sold to another country with lower prices, they added.

As Safir quoted an official at the French presidential palace as saying that the Saudi administrative routine is responsible for the delay in striking the deal to assist the Lebanese army and security forces.

But Lebanese officials and Asiri denied the claim, without giving much details.

The diplomat told the newspaper that the $3 billion is “awaiting the spending mechanism and hinges on the final deal between Lebanon and France, meaning between the seller and the buyer.”

The role of the funding party comes after the deal is struck, Assiri said.

The fighting between the Lebanese army and jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal prompted army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji to urge France to speed up the delivery of weapons.

His appeal was followed by the announcement of ex-Premier Saad Hariri of a new $1 billion in Saudi aid.

Al-Joumhouria newspaper said Tuesday that Lebanese security officials handed Hariri a list of their agencies' needs.

It quoted security sources as saying that the list included weapons and advanced equipment that were asked for under the $3 billion grant.

Part of the $1 billion grant will be handed to security agencies in cash to buy weapons and arsenal worth $500 million, the sources and Lebanese officials said.

The officials told As Safir that the new military assistance will not witness a delay like its predecessor. Its results will start appearing as soon as the cabinet approves it, they said.



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