Sunday 24 June 2018
News ID: 35487
Publish Date: 11 January 2017 - 20:37

RIYADH (Dispatches) -- Lebanese President Michel Aoun said after a visit to Saudi Arabia that his country's close ties to Iran should not impede relations with the wider Arab world.
"We have normal relations with Iran," which "shouldn't be a barrier in the face of normal relations with the Arab world," Aoun said in remarks published by the pan-Arab and Saudi-run Asharq al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday.
Iran is a longtime supporter of the resistance movement Hezbollah, which represents much of Lebanon. Aoun, whose Christian party is allied with Hezbollah, said Iran's support for the group "could continue indefinitely."
Saudi Arabia halted a $3 billion arms deal with Lebanon in February and banned Saudis and other Persian Gulf nationals from traveling there after what the Saudis described as Beirut's failure to condemn attacks on Saudi missions in Iran by demonstrators angered by the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shia cleric. Weeks later, Lebanon abstained from an Arab League vote branding Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hezbollah is fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria, while Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries support the terrorists.
Aoun said he discussed the arms deal with Saudi officials, without elaborating. The former general also said that "the decision about the return of the tourists has been taken."
Saudi officials told The Associated Press that the Saudi king has promised to review the restoration of the aid package to the Lebanese army but without giving a timetable.
They also said that the king has assured Aoun that he will give instructions to the powerful Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman to "give attention to the issue."
A senior Lebanese official told the Associated Press that Saudis have conditions to unblock the military aid to Lebanon, including assurances that such assistance won't end up in the hands any Lebanese parties — a reference to Hezbollah.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the press.
Aoun flew from Saudi Arabia to Qatar on Wednesday, said QNA, the official Qatari news agency.
Aoun was elected in October after a 29-month vacuum in the country's top post. In December, the parliament approved a national unity government headed by Lebanon's top Saudi ally, Saad Hariri. He endorsed Aoun, ending the deadlock.

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