Salam Meets Hollande, Final Arms Contracts 'May be Signed in Beirut Next Week'

The signing of the final contracts for equipping the Lebanese army with French weapons might take place “next week in Beirut, not in France,” a media report said Friday, as Prime Minister Tammam Salam met French President Francois Hollande at the Élysée Palace.

“After the contracts are signed, the file will be sent to Saudi Arabia for approval and it would then pay 20% of the total amount of the grant so that the delivery process can begin,” LBCI television reported.

Earlier on Friday, Salam met with Hollande on the third day of his visit to Paris.

He said following the talks that discussions on the technical details of a $3 billion Saudi grant have been completed.

“The weapons will be delivered to the army as soon as possible,” the premier told reporters.

His remarks came a day after he told Lebanese expatriates that the delivery of French arms under the grant would take place in the coming weeks.

The grant was announced last December by former President Michel Suleiman.

Under the deal, the money will be used to buy French weapons and equipment for the Lebanese army, which is facing a growing terrorist threat linked to the war in neighboring Syria.

Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, who is accompanying Salam, has discussed with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian the details of the arms package.

Following his talks with Hollande, Salam said France is following up the issue of the presidency and “is trying to assist us to end” the deadlock.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Suleiman's six-year term ended in May.

Separately, Salam stressed that the Lebanese authorities would not task the Muslim Scholars Committee to negotiate on their behalf in the case of the Lebanese hostages.

“I read about the scholars' negotiation request in the newspapers,” Salam told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat in remarks published on Friday.

“We haven't tasked anyone,” he stressed.

Salam said ministers were united on the case of the soldiers and policemen who were taken hostage from the northeastern border town of Arsal last August.

But he later admitted there were differences between the cabinet members on how to resolve their case.

The servicemen were taken captive by jihadists from al-Nusra Front group and the Islamic State when they overran Arsal and engaged in bloody clashes with the Lebanese army.


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