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Lebanon's information minister quits over comments that angered Saudi Arabia

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Lebanon's information minister quits over comments that angered Saudi Arabia
Lebanese information minister George Kordahi speaks to reporters Friday to announce his resignation from the post, largely due to fallout over critical remarks he made toward Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago. Photo by Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Lebanon's information minister, who agitated Saudi Arabia with critical remarks a few weeks ago, resigned from his post on Friday in a bid to repair relations with Riyadh and improve Lebanon's dire economic crisis.

Information minister George Kordahi angered Saudi officials in October when he voiced criticism for the country's continued military intervention in Yemen's long-running civil war.

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Kordahi, a popular former Lebanese game show host, made the critical remarks before he was appointed as Beirut's information minister. But he later spent weeks in the post and refused to resign over the comments, which some observers said only prolonged the crisis.

Friday, he said that his resignation is necessary for Lebanon's well-being.

Houthi rebels participate in a rally against the Saudi-led civil war in Yemen on August 8. Saudi Arabia has supported the Yemeni government in its conflict with Houthi rebels. File Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE
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"I won't accept being used as a reason to harm Lebanon and our Lebanese brothers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries," Kordahi said Friday, according to Al Jazeera.

"Lebanon is more important than George Kordahi, and the Lebanese interests are more important than a ministerial role."

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In Kordahi's critical remarks, he described the seven-year civil war in Yemen between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led pro-government coalition as "futile."

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Kordahi's comments in October were met with anger in Riyadh and Saudi officials immediately responded by recalling its ambassador from Beirut and banning all Lebanese imports. The response was supported by Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, which only compounded Beirut's predicament.

The diplomatic feud added to multiple crises Lebanon has faced for years now. The country's economy is in turmoil and a political crisis arose from a major explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020 that grew worse as the government began to investigate.

Kordahi said that Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Nikati required his resignation before French President Emmanuel Macron visited Riyadh in an effort to defuse tensions between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

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Macron began a Gulf tour on Friday and will visit Qatar, Saudia Arabia and the UAE.

It wasn't immediately clear who would succeed Kordahi in the post.

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