BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Friday that French President Francois Holland had given orders to expedite the delivery of French arms to the Lebanese Army through the Saudi-funded deal and that the needed weapons would soon be transferred.
“Final touches have been placed on the technical side of the deal and what is left is the approval between Saudi Arabia and France. The delivery to Lebanon will happen in a swift manner,” Salam told reporters in a news conferences after meeting Hollande.
“Hollande gave the necessary orders to expedite the delivery of the arms, especially that the confrontation with terror is still ongoing.”
In separate remarks to reporters, Salam said the Army would be handed over the arms very soon.
Salam is on an official visit to the French capital to finalize the arms deal for the ill-equipped Lebanese Army funded by a $3 billion Saudi-funded grant to purchase weapons from France.
He met with Hollande earlier in the day and held a news conference in Paris later in the afternoon. Defense Minister Samir Moqbel and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil attended the meeting between Salam and Hollande.
During his chat with reporters, Salam said Hollande would help the country overcome the presidential impasse.
“France will not spare any effort to help whether on the level of the executive branch through President Hollande, or through the legislative branch,” he said.
“We do not mind any intention or ability by an Arab or foreign country to help [us] overcome the presidential election and strengthen domestic stability.”
He said his Cabinet was trying to push in the direction of an election given that the presidential vacuum has paralyzed the work of the government and Parliament.
Salam called on political parties to move from internal conflicts to an understanding that would lead to the election of a new president.
“I do not want to give the impression that the Cabinet can function without a president because our duty is to prevent things from collapsing, but we cannot replace a president.”
Speaking after his meeting with the French president at Elysee Palace, the prime minister said Paris was following up on the presidential deadlock.
"France is following up on the presidential issue with us, although it is an internal affair, and it is trying to help us reach the point of electing a president and ending the deadlock,” Salam said.
France dispatched Jean-François Girault, head of the French Foreign Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa office to Beirut earlier this week. He held a series of meetings with several Lebanese officials in a bid to put an end to the lingering presidential vacuum.
Salam said the two leaders discussed a number of issues, including the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and the need to help the country cope with such overwhelming numbers.
The prime minister also said international assistance to Lebanon has not been enough for the country.