19:44 GMT13 April 2021
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    Russia’s political, diplomatic, military, and economic footprint in the Middle East has expanded visibly over the past decade. After gaining naval and air bases in Syria, Russia now seeks closer military cooperation with Lebanon.

    Lebanon has accepted a Russian offer of millions of bullets for its police force, the office of the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Monday, denying earlier reports that Moscow’s offer had been turned down.

    The office dismissed a report earlier published by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that implied that the Russian offer had been turned down due to US opposition to the idea of the Lebanese military accepting Russian aid as ‘devoid of truth’.

    A source in the Lebanese military said that the offer had been initially rejected for technical reasons pertaining to the types of weapons used by the Lebanese army.

    The military source added that Lebanon still maintains military ties with Russia, saying the army signed a deal with Moscow in 2017 to purchase 104 military transport vehicles and that Lebanese military officers still undergo training in Russia.

    Earlier this year, Russia proposed wide-ranging military cooperation with Lebanon in the form of a five-year renewable agreement on closer information exchanges, military training, and a joint fight against terrorism.

    According to local media reports and a Western diplomat in Beirut, Russia was ready to line up $1 billion worth of credits to the Lebanese military for arms and other military purchases.

    READ MORE: Lebanese MP: Russia's Novatek Will Protect Lebanon's Oil From Israel

    During his September 2017 meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri expressed hope that his upcoming visit to Moscow would facilitate Russian arms supplies for the Lebanese army.

    ‘We hope that this visit will help discuss the possibility of buying Russian weapons in order to make the [Lebanese] army stronger and more combat-ready’, Hariri said.


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