France to provide 14 million euros in aid to Lebanese army

PARIS (Reuters) - France will provide 14 million euros’ ($17 million) worth of aid to the Lebanese army, to include training and equipment such as anti-tank missiles, an official said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO - Lebanese army soldiers take part in a military parade to celebrate the 74th anniversary of Lebanon's independence in downtown Beirut, Lebanon November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The aid is part of efforts to strengthen Lebanon’s institutions and boost security amid growing internal political tensions.

The army, one of the few institutions not overtaken by the sectarian divisions that plague Lebanon, has few resources to deal with the instability on its border with Syria, and has been seeking to modernize its hardware.

Lebanon was plunged into crisis in November when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri abruptly announced his resignation - since withdrawn - thrusting his country to the forefront of a regional tussle between the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Islamist Iran, whose Lebanese ally Hezbollah is part of the Beirut government.

“The new Saudi leadership doesn’t have the same relationship with Lebanon as in the past and no longer wants to invest billions in the country,” the French official said.

“So we are in a phase where we are consolidating the situation.”

Lebanon’s defense minister was in Paris on Thursday to prepare the first of three conferences aimed at helping different sectors in the country.

An event on March 15 in Rome is intended to support the army, one on April 6 in Paris to aid the private sector, and another on April 25 in Brussels to address the refugee issue.

Lebanon is currently hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

($1 = 0.8125 euros)

Reporting by Sophie Louet; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Kevin Liffey