BEIRUT: The Lebanese government approved Thursday a $1 billion Saudi grant to modernize security services in their fight against terrorism, as the country’s military prosecutor charged 43 alleged militants with crimes connected to recent battles in the border town of Arsal.


But the charges appeared to set back negotiations to free Army soldiers and Internal Security Forces personnel held captive by jihadists from the Nusra Front during the clashes, as they postponed issuing demands in exchange for the hostages.


“The Cabinet accepted the in-kind grant which consists of equipment and weapons for the Army and the security forces worth $1 billion offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said after a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail.


Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that the Saudi donation will be spent to buy the equipment directly by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has been entrusted by the Saudi government to ensure the proper disbursement of the aid. [Link]