BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Wednesday that Lebanon was being subject to an unprecedented terrorist attack, adding that the $1 billion Saudi grant was meant to help the country’s security apparatuses crush terrorism.
Addressing a news conference at his residence in the Saudi port city of Jiddah, Hariri gave details about the grant, which he earlier announced had been provided by King Abdullah.
“The assistance that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has decided is clear and specific, and concerns the Lebanese Army and security institutions that fight terrorism and hunt armed men and extremism everywhere,” Hariri said.
The former prime minister praised Saudi Arabia for standing by Lebanon’s side and providing the assistance to help Lebanon and its Army to confront terrorists, “who have tarnished the image of true Islam,” he said.
Hariri said that by providing the grant, the Saudi monarch behaved in accordance with the speech he made last week, in which he warned against the rise of terrorism and the failure of the international community to fight it.
The assistance comes eight months after King Abdullah granted $3 billion to the Army, allowing it to buy weapons it needs from France.
Syrian militants took over the northeastern town of Arsal Saturday, storming Army posts and taking Army and Internal Security Forces (ISF) personnel hostage. Ongoing clashes with the military have killed 17 soldiers and wounded scores of others. The battles have also claimed the lives of at least 50 militants.
Asked when the weapons would be actually delivered to the Army, Hariri said: “When the Lebanese Army, the Internal Security Forces, or any other legitimate security institutions have immediate requests to fight terrorism, these amounts will be available to buy all the weapons. Our mission is to be clear and transparent and to do it as soon as possible,” Hariri said.
“There is no doubt that this amount is supposed to greatly enhance the potential of the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces and all security agencies to fight terrorism. We have a very large shortage, the Internal Security Forces severely lack equipment and the Lebanese Army is suffering from a shortage of ammunition and important equipment to fight terrorism,” Hariri said.
Following the news conference, Hariri telephoned Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi to identify the urgent needs of the military and security services, and enable them to carry out their tasks in the fight against terrorism.
Hariri said that the takeover of Arsal by Syrian militants was an “unprecedented terrorist attack” that captured the town, taking Army and ISF personnel hostage.
“This is not a brief security event like the events that have taken place in other Lebanese areas. It is a curse inflicted on Lebanon ... terrorism is a cancer threatening not only the very existence of Lebanon but also the whole region with chaos and strife,” the Future Movement leader said.
Hariri said that only national unity could protect Lebanon, adding that it could not be sacrificed for the benefit of foreign projects that aimed to bring chaos into Lebanon or link it to external conflicts.
“Our unity is the sharpest weapon,” he said.
Commenting on events in Arsal, Hariri stressed that negotiating with militants was necessary to secure the release of captured Army soldiers and ISF officers, stressing that the militants should pull out from the town. “This negotiation is necessary because there are missing soldiers in the hands of the terrorists. We want to save the town of Arsal and return the military captives to their families. Therefore, it is necessary to negotiate, knowing that negotiations took place for a number of journalists who were held by ISIS, and there are Christian men of religion and other persons abducted by this terrorist organization,” he said.
The former premier reiterated that Hezbollah’s military role in the Syrian civil war resulted in the retaliatory action taken by the militants in Arsal along with car bomb attacks which targeted the Beirut southern suburbs and other parts of the country over the past year.
“As for what happened in Arsal, there is no doubt that the entry of Hezbollah into the Syrian arena and its participation in the fighting in Syria led to very bad reactions from the Lebanese and the rebels in Syria,” Hariri said. “We always said that the repercussions will be on the Lebanese, and we witnessed explosions in Tripoli, Beirut’s suburbs and all across Lebanese territories.”
“It was a crime for Hezbollah to go and fight in Syria, and when terrorists came to Arsal and attacked the Lebanese Army, this was a crime as well,” he said.