BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said the new $1 billion Saudi pledge would be more than enough to guarantee security for Lebanon, after a meeting at the Grand Serail attended by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other officials.
“The grant is more than sufficient to ensure the security of a small country like Lebanon, but the process of accepting it should pass through the Cabinet,” Machnouk said, adding the meeting had focused on “the mechanism to follow for accepting and disbursing the grant.”
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri joined the meeting Friday at the Grand Serail with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi and Machnouk to discuss the $1 billion Saudi grant to support the Lebanese Army, hours after his surprise return to Beirut.
Kahwagi said the Army needed planes among other equipment essential to help it combat terrorism, noting that the Saudi grant is a guarantee for arming the military to fight terror.
Riyadh has said that the grant is aimed at supporting the Army in its fight against the growing threat of terrorism, days after it battled Islamist militants in the northeastern town of Arsal.
Asked about the fate of Lebanese soldiers taken hostage by militants in Arsal, Kahwagi said “my conviction is that they have been taken outside the town which the Army already entered.”
Hariri and Salam continued to hold talks after Kahwagi and Machnouk left the meeting.
At the start of the meeting, Salam described Hariri's return as a big step that stemmed from the former PM's “sense of patriotism in light of the critical situation in the country.”
He expressed hope that Hariri's return would create a positive atmosphere for politicians to come together to safeguard Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah phoned Salam and expressed his solidarity with Lebanon "in this critical phase and his keenness to strengthen Lebanon's security, stability and sovereignty."
The king expressed his concern over the recent clashes in Arsal, affirming that the kingdom stood beside Lebanon in its battle against terrorism.
He also informed Salam that he entrusted Hariri with overseeing the spending of the $1 billion grant, saying he would like the donation to exclusively meet the pressing demands of the Army and security forces.