Lebanese minister in Saudi spat still unwilling to step down | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Lebanese minister in Saudi spat still unwilling to step down

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s information minister at the heart of the country’s diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia said Friday he would only step down if he received unspecified guarantees that his resignation would resolve the crisis.

Pressure has mounted on George Kordahi, a former TV game show host, to apologize and step down after comments criticizing the war in Yemen that a Saudi-led coalition is waging against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, describing it as “absurd” and an “aggression” by the kingdom.

Kordahi made his comments in August before he took the ministerial post and Lebanon has said the remarks about Yemen, aired in late October, do not represent official government views.

Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador from Beirut and asked the Lebanese envoy to leave the kingdom. It has also banned Lebanese imports, undermining the small nation’s foreign trade and depriving it of millions of dollars as it struggles amid the economic meltdown.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have also pulled their top diplomats from Lebanon, deepening the discord.

“When there are guarantees, I am ready,” Kordahi told reporters in Beirut on Friday. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati had earlier appealed to Kordahi to do the “right thing,” indicating he would like him to resign.

So far, there have been “no guarantees," Kordahi also said, without elaborating.

He spoke a day after the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, said Lebanon should offer no concessions to Saudi Arabia, which he accused of fabricating the crisis to undermines Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Saudi officials said the rift is rooted in the growing influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, and Lebanon’s drift further into Iran’s orbit, the kingdom’s regional archival.

Kordahi also said that he has handed over a message asking for guarantees to Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bishara Rai. But he didn't say what his conditions were.

Kordahi said he and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri discussed Friday government plans for a new media law, indicating he is carrying on with business as usual.

Many Lebanese fear further punitive steps from Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region — there are hundreds of thousands of Lebanese living in Gulf Arab states. Lebanese in the diaspora send millions of dollars in remittances, which help keep Lebanon afloat as it struggles with an economic meltdown.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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