Saudi con­grat­u­lates Le­banon pres­i­dent

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Saudi Ara­bia has con­grat­u­lated Le­banon’s new Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun on his elec­tion de­spite the sup­port he re­ceived from the king­dom’s re­gional foes. King Sal­man tele­phoned Aoun to wish him suc­cess, “stress­ing the king­dom of Saudi Ara­bia’s sup­port for Le­banon and its unity”, the of­fi­cial Saudi Press Agency re­ported late Tues­day.

Le­banese law­mak­ers elected the 81year-old for­mer army chief on Mon­day, end­ing a two-year va­cancy caused by a dead­lock be­tween Iran- and Saudi-backed blocs in par­lia­ment. Aoun had re­ceived the un­stint­ing sup­port of Iran’s Le­banese ally, Shi­ite mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah, which Saudi Ara­bia black­listed as a “ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion” in March. His elec­tion fol­lowed a sur­prise U-turn by two key lead­ers of the pro-Saudi camp-bil­lion­aire Sunni for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri and Chris­tian Le­banese Forces leader Samir Geagea.

Hariri’s in­flu­ence in Le­banon has waned as his con­struc­tion firm Saudi Oger has been hit by a slow­down in Saudi gov­ern­ment in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing in what has been seen by some as a dis­en­gage­ment by his long­time spon­sor. Saudi Ara­bia’s re­la­tions with both Hezbol­lah and its ally Iran have de­te­ri­o­rated sharply this year amid deep dif­fer­ences over the con­flict in Syria.

Hezbol­lah has sent thou­sands of fight­ers to back Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad. Riyadh sup­ports the rebels. Ear­lier this year, the king­dom halted a $3 bil­lion pro­gram of mil­i­tary aid to Le­banon to protest what it said was “the stran­gle­hold of Hezbol­lah on the state”. It also urged its cit­i­zens to leave Le­banon and avoid travel to the coun­try.

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