Report: Salam Drops Gulf Tour Plan
Prime Minister Tammam Salam has dropped a plan to go on a Gulf tour following a Saudi decision to cut off billions of dollars of aid to the Lebanese army and security forces, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday.
Salam decided instead to carry out contacts with several Gulf countries through their ambassadors in Beirut, said the newspaper.
But al-Joumhouria quoted sources close to Salam as saying that the PM was still waiting for an answer on a message he sent to Saudi King Salman to decide on his next move.
Salam said on Monday that he will head a ministerial delegation to visit Gulf states in the near future after Saudi Arabia halted security assistance deals worth $4 billion.
The Saudi move came after Lebanon failed to back the Sunni kingdom in its spat with Shiite powerhouse Iran, the leading backer of Hizbullah.
In a statement, the premier insisted Beirut stands by Arab countries.
But his appeal was not met with positive reactions from the Gulf. Saudi Arabia called on its citizens not to travel to Lebanon for safety reasons and ordered those staying there to leave. Its Gulf allies Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar predictably followed suit, issuing similar warnings. The United Arab Emirates also banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon and withdrew a number of diplomats from the country.
There have also been reports that the Gulf states would start evicting thousands of Lebanese who work in the oil-rich region, a move that would have a devastating effect on Lebanon's crumbling economy.