BEIRUT - President Michel Suleiman on Sunday evening announced that Saudi Arabia made a landmark $3 billion military grant to Lebanon to purchase weapons from France.
“I am pleased to announce to the Lebanese people that Saudi King [Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz] has decided to offer Lebanon a generous grant of $3 billion to help the Lebanese Armed Forces receive new weapons,” the president said in a televised address to the nation.
“The King has specified that the weapons will be bought from France… and I hope Paris responds to this initiative quickly.”
Suleiman also called for forming a new cabinet “as soon as possible, which is what I sought during my visits and phone calls.”
“However, I never discussed this issue or the issue of extending my term with Saudi Arabia or US President [Barack Obama] or anyone else,” he added.
President Suleiman called for more consciousness, calm, and cooperation with the state’s legal institutions and the LAF.
The Saudi military assistance comes as French President Francois Hollande is scheduled to meet soon with Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri in Riyadh.
In an interview published Sunday in pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Hollande called for the respect of "constitutional deadlines" in Lebanon, starting with "holding presidential elections.
Lebanon has been gripped by a fierce political deadlock which has seen the country’s legislature extend its term in May after a failure to agree on a parliamentary electoral law, while PM-designate Tammam Salam has been unable to form a new government almost nine months after his appointment.
However, recent reports have indicated that Suleiman has been moving toward green-lighting a neutral cabinet against the wishes of the March 8 coalition that rivals March 14 for power in the country.
Lebanon’s constitution stipulates that the president and premier-designate can sign decrees approving a government, but the parliament holds final sway on its activation with a vote of confidence.
Even if a new cabinet did not receive a vote of confidence, it would replace Najib Miqati’s current resigned government as the caretaker cabinet.
Hezbollah has warned that the formation of a fait accompli cabinet could cause strife in the country, which is already suffering from a worsening security situation that has seen a series of car bombs in recent months.
The Shiite party’s deputy chief, Naim Qassem, earlier in the week called on Suleiman to “remain unbiased” and warned that a fait accompli cabinet would obstruct the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for May 2014.