Saudi Arabia suspends aid to Lebanon as Lebanese economy bites

Written by, Amanda Miller, CNN

Lebanon has been plunged into crisis with the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, the country’s main arms supplier, to suspend aid to the struggling state.

The sudden cuts last Friday by Riyadh also stopped the Lebanese army receiving money it owes Saudi contractors for supplying it with electronic equipment.

The aid suspension comes amid worsening economic conditions in Lebanon. Inflation hit 18% in July compared to 16% a year earlier.

MORE: Lebanon, scene of Syria’s civil war, plunged into crisis

Saudi Arabia accused the Saudi-based Lebanese news channel al-Arabiya of being a mouthpiece for Hezbollah, an ally of Iran that controls much of Lebanon’s politics. Hezbollah is strongly opposed to the kingdom’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

During a trip to Beirut, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ordered the closure of travel agencies at the airport.

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Many Lebanese believe the measures were designed to punish Lebanon as a whole for backing their neighbor Syria during the five-year-long civil war in that country.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest contributor to the annual U.N. Lebanon development budget and is the country’s largest aid donor.

Bucking the trend

The Arab states’ restrictive measures threaten to devastate Lebanon’s fragile economy, already propped up by international aid.

Saudi Arabia’s suspension of aid could have a “very damaging” effect on Lebanon’s infrastructure, says an academic at the Lebanese American University and head of Lebanese Al Ahdain University Research Center Akram Taye.

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