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Outspoken Lebanese minister reiterates he will not resign under Saudi pressure

Lebanon’s Minister of Information George Kordahi

Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi has stressed that he will not step down as a result of the ongoing political row between Beirut and Riyadh, days after Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of pressure on Lebanon in response to his comments critical of the kingdom's devastating war on Yemen.

Beleaguered Kordahi on Thursday told Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV that he would “not resign” and that his position would not change.

His comments come as pressure continues to mount on the 71-year-old minister, after a video aired last month from an August 5 interview showed him attacking with disparaging remarks the ongoing war on impoverished Yemen.

Kordahi lambasted the war on Yemen as an act of aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Riyadh’s most significant ally in the coalition. He called the war “absurd,” saying it must stop.

Kordahi also said Yemeni army forces and their allied fighters from the Popular Committees were “defending themselves ... against an external aggression,” and that “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the Saudi-led coalition. He also said the war was “futile” and it was “time for it to end.”

Kordahi’s remarks at the program infuriated Riyadh and prompted it to order Lebanon’s ambassador to leave the kingdom within 48 hours and ban all imports from the Mediterranean country.

In solidarity with Riyadh, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit, ordering the Lebanese charge d’affaires to leave within two days and recalling their own envoys from Beirut. The UAE also said Saturday it was withdrawing its diplomats from Lebanon.

PM: Kordahi must prioritize Lebanon’s interest 

Earlier on Thursday, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called on Kordahi to “prioritize national interest,” stopping short of calling on him to resign.

“I repeat calls for the information minister to listen to his conscience and put circumstances into consideration and take the stance he should take,” Mikati further said in a public speech, adding that the cabinet would not intervene in judicial matters, indicating a continued rift in government over the issue.

Mikati also said on Thursday that he had agreed with President Michel Aoun on a “road map” to settle the deepening diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia,

“I discussed with His Excellency the President ways to get out of the current crisis and we agreed on a road map,” he said, according to a Lebanese presidency post on Twitter.

Hezbollah reiterates support for Kordahi

Separately on Thursday, Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbollah renewed its support for Kordahi.

What Kordahi said does not justify “the Saudi reaction, that amounts to waging war and does not justify hasty measures against Lebanon and its people”, said Hassan Ezzeddine, a spokesman for Hezbollah.

He was referring to what Riyadh has done in retaliation, including the expulsion of Lebanese envoy from the Arab kingdom and banning of Lebanese imports.

The small Arab country is suffering from a financial and economic meltdown which the World Bank has described as one of the deepest depressions of modern history.

Saudi Arabia launched the war on its southern neighbor in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies, and with arms and logistics support from the United States and several Western countries. The aim was to return to power a former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the popular Ansarullah movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but has not achieved any of Saudi Arabia's goals. Meanwhile, Yemeni forces have gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the impoverished country.

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