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Saudi 'unblocks military aid' to Lebanon

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said his country seeks cooperation with Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 January, 2017

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Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have agreed to hold talks on restoring a $3-billion military aid package that Riyadh froze last year.

Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have agreed to hold talks on restoring a $3-billion military aid package that Riyadh froze last year.

"The blockage is lifted," said an official in the delegation of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who held talks in the Saudi capital with King Salman.

"It's finished. There is truly a change. But when and how, we have to wait to see," the official told AFP, adding "a new page" had been turned and the aid was "going to move."

In February, the kingdom halted the military aid programme to protest what it said was "the stranglehold" which the Iran-backed group Hizballah had on the Lebanese state.

The programme, funded by Riyadh, would provide vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France.

It aims to ensure stability in Lebanon as it is weakened by internal divisions and threatened by extremists and the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Salman's son, the powerful Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will discuss with his Lebanese counterpart how to move forward with the package, said the official, who asked for anonymity.

The announcement comes as Lebanese President Michel Aoun said his country seeks cooperation with Saudi Arabia, after a tense year in relations between the two countries.

Aoun arrived in Riyadh on Monday night with a delegation of ministers. It is his first trip to the kingdom since his election in November ended a two-year deadlock between Iran- and Saudi-backed blocs in the Lebanese parliament.

In an interview with Saudi state news channel Al-Ekhbaria, Aoun said his ministers of foreign affairs, education, finance and information would meet their counterparts "to find some fields of cooperation."

Aoun himself held talks over lunch on Tuesday with King Salman, but the official Saudi Press Agency gave no details of their content.

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