Mashnouq in Moscow this Month as Qahwaji Sets Stage for Activation of Russian Military Grant

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Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq is expected to visit Moscow on September 18 to sign a deal to buy military equipment for the Internal Security Forces, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday.

Lebanon will buy the equipment from a recently announced $1 billion Saudi grant to Lebanon, it said.

The grant was announced by al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri last month.

Saudi Arabia is already financing a $3-billion package of French military equipment and arms for the army although bureaucracy has slowed down the procedure.

According to al-Akhbar, al-Mashnouq will also discuss with Russian officials the possibility of receiving a Russian military grant.

It quoted diplomatic officials as saying that Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji recently visited Russian Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin to prepare for his visit to Moscow.

His agenda will include the activation of a Russian grant that was announced in November 2010 and which includes providing the Lebanese army with helicopter gunships, tanks, cannons and ammunition, they added.

Qahwaji’s trip comes amid a rising threat by jihadist fighters who have deployed along the eastern border with Lebanon.

The gunmen overran the northeastern border town of Arsal last month and took with them hostages from the army and security forces.

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