Paris (AFP) – Saudi Arabia, which vies with arch-rival Iran for influence in Lebanon, will grant the country a $1-billion (800 million-euro) development loan, a Lebanese government official told a donor conference in Paris Friday.
“It’s a renewal of a line of credit that was there in the past and was not used,” said Nadim Mounla, an economic adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Lebanon’s economy has been hard hit by repeated political crises, as well as the war in neighbouring Syria which has sent a million refugees fleeing across the border — equivalent to a quarter of Lebanon’s population before the conflict.
Western powers fear the turmoil could derail Lebanon, which has long served as a proxy battleground for bigger regional powers.
Concerns for the country’s stability rose sharply in November, when Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia, in a shock move in which many observers saw the hidden hand of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Hariri later rescinded his resignation after mediation by France and Egypt.
Some 40 countries have sent representatives to the Paris meeting which aims to come up with a support package worth $10 billion over four years.