Hariri office denies Lebanon turned down Russian aid

REUTERS
BEIRUT
Published

Lebanon has accepted a Russian aid offer comprising millions of bullets that will be given to its police force, the office of the caretaker prime minister said on Monday, denying reports an offer of Russian military aid had been turned down.

News that the Russian offer had been rejected was first reported by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar on Monday, which said the ammunition had been offered to Lebanon's U.S.-backed army and had been turned down. A military source confirmed the army had declined the offer, saying this was for technical reasons linked to the types of weapons used by the Lebanese military and had nothing to do with politics.

The media office of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said the al-Akhbar article was "devoid of truth." "The Press Office clarifies that this is not true and that the Russian side was informed of the acceptance to receive the donation, from which the Internal Security Forces in the Ministry of Interior will benefit," it said in a statement.

Al-Akhbar, which is supportive of Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group, said the army's decision to rebuff the Russian offer was political, saying the United States was against the army accepting Russian aid. The United States is the biggest donor to the Lebanese army, providing more than $1.5 billion in support since 2006. Earlier this year, Russia tabled what appeared to be more wide-ranging military cooperation with Lebanon. A draft military accord published by the Russian news agency TASS in February set out a five-year renewable agreement included general aspirations of improving information exchanges, developing military training and fighting terrorism.

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