Bassil under fire after Saudi Arabia cancels $4 billion worth of arms for the army


Gebran-Bassil- NYCLebanon’s Foreign Minister Saturday tried to  defended himself  against the  blame for compromising the $4 billion in Saudi military aid that was canceled  on Friday.

In a statement,  Foreign Minister  Gebran Bassil, said his critics were using the incident to launch “cheap” attacks for “political benefit.”

Bassil was recently appointed as the new leader of  the Free Patriotic Movement , a  close ally of the Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group that has been attacking Saudi Arabia .

Saudi Arabia in a surprise move Friday announced that it was suspending  both a $3 billion grant to the Lebanese Army and a $1 billion package to the Internal Security Forces.

Riyadh also said it was reevaluating its relationship with Lebanon in light of positions taken by unnamed Lebanese officials it deemed were not acting in a “brotherly” manner.

March 14 officials quickly pointed the finger at Bassil over his recent decisions to distance Lebanon from statements issued during  a meetings in Cairo and Jeddah last month accusing Iran of backing terrorism.

The statement issued at the Cairo meeting also listed Hezbollah, an influential member of Lebanon’s government and FPM ally, as a terrorist group.

Future Movement leader Saad Hariri said Friday he “understood” Riyadh’s decision to suspend  the aid, blaming Bassil for causing Saudi Arabia “pain” by not getting on board with the statements.

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geaega stressed on Saturday that the government must demand Hezbollah to stop making fiery statements against Saudi Arabia following the Kingdom’s decision to halt the aid to the country’s army.

“The Lebanese government must convene and draw a formal request for Hezbollah  to stop its attacks against Saudi Arabia,” said Geagea in a press conference.

“A high level delegation must be formed to visit Saudi Arabia to put things in order so that it resumes its aid for Lebanon,” he added.

Highlighting Hezbollah’s campaign of verbal attacks against the Kingdom, Geagea said: “Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront in backing President Bashir Gemayel to reach the presidency and has offered generous aid during the 2006 Israeli war. The relations have been tainted recently for two reasons.

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt Saturday called on unnamed Lebanese officials to “reconsider their positions” toward Arab states.

March 14 lawmakers Ammar Houri and Marwan Hamade also blamed Bassil for the Saudi move.

Both the Cairo and Jeddah meetings were called on by Riyadh over the storming of the missions in Iran by protesters angered over the Saudi executions of a Shiite cleric.

The Foreign Ministry  called for Lebanese expats living and working in Saudi Arabia to not be affected by the dispute.

“The relationship between the Republic of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is not a circumstantial relationship linked to fleeting conditions. It is a deep historical relationship based on close ties between the two countries and the two peoples,” it added.