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Lebanon PM: Information minister’s comments on Saudi Arabia, UAE rejected

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Lebanon’s prime minister rejected controversial comments made by his information minister against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during an interview that surfaced late Tuesday in which he defended the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

“George Kordahi’s recent comments do not express the government's position on the Yemeni issue. Lebanon is committed to its ties with Arab countries and my government is keen to have the best relations with Saudi Arabia,” PM Najib Mikati said in statements released shortly after the video was circulated.

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Kordahi appeared on an Al Jazeera-affiliated youth show when he was asked the difference between the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group and the Yemeni Houthis.

Kordahi said that the Houthi militia’s actions were in “self-defense” and that they were not the aggressors.

This is second time a Lebanese official has made controversial comments toward Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

In May, then-foreign minister Charbel Wehbe stoked tensions with televised remarks that suggested Gulf states had supported the rise of ISIS and blamed them for the war in Syria. Wehbe quickly stepped down from his role.

On Tuesday, Lebanon's interior minister took to Twitter to try to mitigate the seemingly inevitable backlash from Kordahi's comments.

“We are keen on the best ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabi and all countries of the [GCC], and we reject attacks against them. We affirm our commitment to its stability and security…,” Bassam Mawlawi tweeted.

Kordahi took to Twitter to defend his comments, which he said were made during the interview on Aug. 5, before he was appointed a minister. “I did not mean, in any way, to offend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the [UAE], for which I have the utmost loyalty and love,” Kordahi said in a series of tweets.

The Lebanese minister also claimed that the sides behind this “campaign” were known and that they were targeting him from the beginning of his tenure as a minister.

But Kordahi doubled down on his comments that the war in Yemen was an “absurd war.”

He added: “I hope my comments and the [uproar] caused by them will be a reason to stop this war, harming Yemen and both Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari retweeted several tweets. One of the tweets addressed Kordahi, asking if he thought the Saudis or Emiratis were “fools” and if the minister was an “idiot.”

“You are able to count on supporters in [Beirut’s southern suburbs] or call a friend in the Free Patriotic Movement,” the tweet read, in reference to Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut and their Christian allies.

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