Middle East

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BEIRUT: Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi announced on Friday that he had decided to “give up” his position in Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government, which was formed on Sept. 10.

“Staying in the government has become absurd because I have been asked to resign and it is better to make way for other endeavors,” he said.

Kordahi signed his letter of resignation, a copy of which was handed to President Michel Aoun and another to Mikati.

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have paralyzed the Cabinet’s work since Oct. 12 by preventing their ministers from attending sessions for several reasons, one of which is their objection to Kordahi resigning due to his offensive statements toward Saudi Arabia.

In a press conference at the Ministry of Information, Kordahi said: “In light of the new developments and French President Emmanuel Marcon’s visit to Saudi Arabia, I understood from Mikati, whom I met three days ago, the importance of my resignation prior to Macron’s visit to Riyadh to pave the way for talks about the future of Saudi-Lebanese ties.”

He said that he had spoken to “the head of the Marada Movement, Suleiman Frangieh, and the allies, and they said I was free to take whichever decision I see fit.”

Kordahi said: “I have thought about this long and hard, and I have called you all here to say that I will not accept to be used as a cause for harm.”

“I prefer that my position be in the interest of Lebanon, not my own, so I decided to give up my ministerial position,” he said.

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“I hope that my resignation will allow better relations with the Gulf states.”

Kordahi stressed that what he said before he became a minister was “out of good faith and love; I did not mean to offend anyone.”

Following Kordahi’s resignation, the exchange rate dropped by more than 2,500 Lebanese pounds in less than 24 hours. (It is currently trading at 22,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.)

Mikati had asked Kordahi, who is the representative of the Marada movement in the government, several times to submit his resignation, but the latter demanded “guarantees” before doing so, based on the position of Frangieh and his ally Hezbollah, citing “national dignity.”

Kordahi’s statements, made against the backdrop of the Yemen war, in addition to Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon and the continued smuggling of drugs to Saudi Arabia, pushed the Kingdom and several Gulf countries to sever diplomatic and economic ties with Lebanon.

Observers in Beirut believed that Kordahi’s decision was “the culmination of internal and external contacts, in which Macron and his adviser Patrick Dorrell participated, to strengthen any proposal regarding the Lebanese issue with the Saudi leadership.”

However, some political observers said that Kordahi’s resignation would “not have potential effects on Riyadh’s position because the issue goes beyond Kordahi himself; it is rather about Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon and the region.”

However, resuming Cabinet sessions is not a given, since Hezbollah and the Amal movement insist on dismissing Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the Beirut port blast investigation.

They have accused him of politicizing the investigation and Hezbollah fears Bitar is trying to implicate the party in the blast.

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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on parliament’s general assembly to hold a legislative session next Tuesday to discuss items postponed from the previous session that lacked a quorum, in addition to proposals for new and urgent laws.

It remains unclear whether parliament will discuss forming a parliamentary investigation committee that will refer the former PM and ministers who are accused of being involved in the port explosion to the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers, thus separating the investigation into the politicians from the one conducted by Bitar.

This is what Hezbollah and the Amal movement want but Bitar is against this because it affects the confidentiality of the investigation, and too many courts will have to get involved, especially since some judges are being prosecuted as well and they will have to be tried before a court of their own.



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