BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt urged rival political factions Tuesday to positively absorb the idea of the Saudi aid to the Lebanese Army, saying the military was in need of the $3 billion in light of Israeli aggression and local events.
“I call on all components of the Lebanese political community to absorb this initiative positively particularly that it serves the interest of state-building as the state remains the only haven for the Lebanese regardless of how the local and regional circumstances change,” Jumblatt said in a statement.
The changes, Jumblatt added, should be a greater incentive to embrace the state, the military and security agencies without exception.
President Michel Sleiman announced Sunday that Saudi Arabia has decided to grant the Lebanese Army $3 billion. The donation, the largest in Lebanon’s history, will be used to purchase new and more advanced weapons from France.
Caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, a figure in the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition, said Monday night in an interview with LBCI that his ministry rejects any grants that comes with certain conditions.
Sources at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star there were no political strings attached to the Saudi grant. “The Saudi grant did not carry any political terms. The money [$3 billion] will not be deposited in Lebanon’s banks because Saudi Arabia will purchase arms for the Lebanese Army from France,” said the sources.
Jumblatt said the grant was a “generous and appreciated gesture that came at the right time for the military institution,” which he said was performing a very difficult and complicated task as a result of the widening gap between political rivals.
“Strengthening the capabilities of the Lebanese Army is exceptional, particularly in the presence of Israeli aggression and daily violations ... and occupation,” he said.
"The difficult mission of protecting stability and civil peace requires a stronger Army and security forces to avoid slipping into further chaos,” Jumblatt, the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, added.