Saudi unblocks military aid to Lebanon: Lebanese source


A Lebanese security forces member patrols the streets of the coastal city of Batroun, north of Beirut, as people celebrate the election of former general Michel Aoun (portrait) as president, on October 31, 2016.

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have agreed to hold talks on restoring a $3-billion (R41.10 billion) military aid package that Riyadh froze last year, a Lebanese source told AFP on Tuesday.

"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 said, 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 Shiite militant group Hezbollah 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 jihadists 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.