Saudis Freeze Billions in Aid to Lebanese Army Over Iran Diplomatic Spat

State news in Saudi Arabia says halt is due to Lebanon's failure to condemn an attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran last month.

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Lebanese army soldiers stand guard at the site of Thursday's twin suicide bombings in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.
Lebanese army soldiers stand guard at the site of Thursday's twin suicide bombings in Burj al-Barajneh, southern Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Credit: AP

Saudi Arabia has suspended a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army to buy French arms, its state news agency said on Friday, in what an official described as a response to Beirut's failure to condemn attacks on the kingdom's missions in Iran.

The SPA agency also quoted an official source as saying in a statement that Saudi Arabia has also cancelled the remainder of $1 billion in aid it had earmarked for Lebanon's internal security service.

Saudi Arabia pledged the aid package for the Lebanese army in 2013 in what then-Lebanese President Michel Suleiman called the largest grant ever to the country's armed forces.

The first shipment of French weapons and military equipment had already been delivered to Lebanon in April last year under the Saudi-funded deal to bolster the Lebanese army's fight against Islamist militants encroaching from neighboring Syria.

A Lebanese security source said Lebanon had not received a formal notification of the decision.

In the statement, the Saudi official said Riyadh had always stood with Lebanon and supported the country through difficult times.

"Despite these honorable stands, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been met with Lebanese stands that are against it on Arab, regional and international arenas, in the shadow of the confiscation of the will of the state by the so-called Lebanese Hezbollah," the statement said.

Hezbollah is the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim group that wields major power in Lebanon. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is the arch-regional rival of Shi'ite Iran.

The SPA statement said Lebanon, at recent meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, had failed to condemn "the blatant aggression on the kingdom's embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad," last month.

It was referring to an attack by Iranian demonstrators protesting over the execution by Saudi Arabia of a senior Shi'ite cleric convicted of incitement to violence.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran over the attacks on its missions.

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