Lebanon vows to maintain Saudi ties despite tensions

Current and ex-prime ministers pledge good ties with Riyadh after Saudi threat to halt grant to security forces.

    Lebanon vows to maintain Saudi ties despite tensions
    Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed loyalty to the kingdom after tensions had risen in a diplomatic dispute [Wael Hamzeh/EPA]

    Lebanon vowed to support Arab countries and maintain its Arab identity days after Saudi Arabia decided to halt a $4bn grant for the Lebanese security forces in a diplomatic dispute.

    Prime Minister Tammam Salam said on Monday that Lebanon should maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia and that Arab countries must garner a unified response to all obstacles that they face.

    "Lebanon will not forget Saudi Arabia's role ... in helping it rebuild the country after the [1975-1990] civil war," Salam said after a cabinet session.

    Also on Monday, former prime minister Saad Hariri expressed loyalty to the kingdom.

    READ MORE: Lebanon minister quits over 'Hezbollah domination'

    "Loyalty to the kingdom means loyalty to Lebanon and offending the kingdom means offending Lebanon," Hariri said at a ceremony attended by politicians, journalists and businessmen.

    "We tell the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leadership and the leaders of the Arab Gulf that the rogue voices attacking you do not speak in the name of Lebanon and the Lebanese, and [they] do not represent them.

    "These are the voices of those who turned against Arabism and withdrew from the national consensus. We will not give them the chance to seize the Lebanese Republic regardless of the challenges."

    On Friday, Saudi Arabia said that it was halting the military aid programme over Lebanon's failure to support the kingdom in its recent row with Iran and for what it said were hostile "political and media positions led by the so-called Hezbollah in Lebanon".

    The Saudi announcement affects two deals: one for $3bn in military hardware for the armed forces and another worth $1bn in aid for the police.

    Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran last month after the kingdom was angered by the Islamic Republic's criticism of its execution of Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr and by a mob attack on its embassy in Tehran.

    Iran and Hezbollah are also staunch supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, committing troops to help his forces against the rebels and hardline groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.

    Saudi Arabia has been a key backer of the Syrian opposition since the beginning of the uprising against the Assad regime in 2011.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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