BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanon on Monday called on Saudi Arabia to reconsider its decision to ban Lebanese products from entering the oil-rich kingdom over a drug trafficking case. Officials have vowed to investigate and institute tough new measures.
The announcement came after a meeting attended by the Lebanese president, prime minister, several ministers and heads of security agencies who discussed Saudi Arabia’s decision last week.
Officials have called on security agencies and the customs department to strengthen measures that prevent smuggling to any country and to ensure that exports to Gulf countries do not include “illegal products.”
Saudi Arabia on Friday announced that it had seized more than 5 million tablets of an amphetamine drug known as Captagon hidden in a shipment of grenades from Lebanon.
Lebanese officials have asked the public prosecutor to follow up on the investigation into the shipment, adding that Lebanon strongly rejects the fact that its facilities are used as a point for such “criminal acts”.
Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi was allowed to contact Saudi authorities to help find who was behind the shipment and prevent this from happening again in the future.
The Saudi ban, ordered by the kingdom’s interior ministry, went into effect on Sunday. It was a blow to the Lebanese economy, already reeling from an unprecedented economic crisis.
“Lebanon wants better relations with the Arab States and to protect their security and stability”, declared President Michel Aoun, quoted during the meeting.
While Saudi Arabia has been a major supporter of Lebanon, the kingdom has also been locked into a regional struggle with Iran, the main ally of the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The tension between the two regional powers has often spilled over into a decision-making deadlock in Lebanese politics. Saudi Arabia is among the Gulf countries that have imposed sanctions on Hezbollah.
The Lebanon Farmers Union called on the kingdom to repeal its decision. He said that the mistake of a person or a criminal gang should not be a reason to punish the Lebanese people.
Lebanon is going through the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history. The local currency has lost 85% of its value against the dollar in recent months and businesses have shut down as banks impose informal controls on transfers and withdrawals.