Asiri Says Riyadh Keen on Lebanon’s Security

Saudi Ambassador Ali Awadh Asiri said King Abdullah was keen on preserving the security and stability of Lebanon, stressing that Riyadh's military aid is aimed at helping the country confront terrorists.

Asiri made his remark as France and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on Tuesday for Paris to provide the Lebanese army with $3 billion worth of weapons paid for by Riyadh.

The diplomat told the Saudi Okaz daily in remarks published on Wednesday that the grant aims at preserving the unity and safety of Lebanon at a time when the country's border is under threat.

Such threat requires a strong and united Lebanon, said Asiri.

The Lebanese army unites the Lebanese from all sects, he told Okaz, stressing that Riyadh continues to back Lebanon with deeds and not words.

“King Abdullah is keen on preserving the security, sovereignty and stability of Lebanon,” Asiri said.

The deal, first announced in December, aims to boost Lebanon's military as it struggles to contain a rising tide of violence linked to the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Lebanon announced the surprise $3 billion grant from Saudi Arabia in December under ex-President Michel Suleiman's tenure. Since then, Riyadh's regional rival, Iran, has also said it is ready to provide aid to the Lebanese army. Many Lebanese view these offers as part of a competition for influence over the country, which is riven by sectarian fissures.

The Lebanese army is generally seen as a unifying force in Lebanon, and draws its ranks from all of the country's sects. But it has struggled to contain the escalating violence since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict.

It has confronted jihadists who are present on the porous Lebanese-Syrian border and who in August overran the northeastern border town of Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with troops.

The militants from the Islamic State group and al-Nsura Front took with them hostages from the military and police and later executed three of them.



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