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US to deliver armed aircraft to Lebanon

American Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said on Friday that his country is to provide Lebanon with armed Cessna aircraft, in addition to Hellfire missiles.

In a statement delivered after meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Hale said the aircraft would be bought with Saudi funds recently pledged to the Lebanese army.

“Over the last two weeks, a series of accelerated shipments of American arms and armaments have arrived here,” he said. “This week brought the delivery of more Hellfire missiles to the Lebanese army.”

“The Lebanese government and army have requested additional aircraft from the United States: an armed Cessna and other light air support aircraft,” the statement added.

“It is our intention to support those requests for additional aircraft, using funds generously made available to Lebanon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Hale said another Cessna previously provided by the US to the Lebanese army would also be armed.

The pledges and arms deliveries come as several allies of Lebanon step up efforts to bolster its armed forces as the threat from ISIS in the region grows.

Lebanon was among ten Arab states that pledged on Thursday to rally behind Washington against ISIS, the extremist group that has controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

In August, Saudi Arabia pledged one billion dollars in funds to purchase military equipment for the Lebanese army. Last year, Saudi Arabia pledged $3billion to buy French weapons.

The additional funding was announced as the army battled an incursion from Syria by ISIS and several extremist groups, who are still holding hostage Lebanese soldiers and policemen.

Two of the soldiers have been beheaded by ISIS and efforts to negotiate the release of the remaining security forces, some of whom are being held by other jihadists, have stalled.

Hill said the weapons being provided by Washington “will help the army secure Lebanon’s borders and defeat extremist groups that have crossed it”.

 

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