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Lebanon invites Saudis for talks as diplomatic row deepens

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BEIRUT: Lebanon on Monday called for talks with Saudi Arabia to ease a spiralling diplomatic row sparked by remarks made by a Lebanese minister on the Yemen war.

“Lebanon invites Saudi Arabia to engage in dialogue to solve all outstanding problems and not just the latest spat, so that the same crisis is not repeated every time,” Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, told AFP.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia gave Lebanon’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country, recalled its envoy from Beirut and suspended all imports from Lebanon. The Saudi foreign ministry said the measures were taken after “insulting” remarks made by Lebanese Information Minister Georges Kordahi on the Yemen war, but also due to the influence of Lebanon’s Iran-backed movement Hizbullah.

In an interview recorded in August and aired last week, Kordahi said Iran-backed Huthi rebels were “defending themselves… against an external aggression,” by a Saudi-led military coalition. His comments sparked angry rebukes from Saudi Arabia and its allies, worsening diplomatic ties that have weakened significantly in recent years over the growing dominance of Hezbollah which is viewed by the kingdom as a terrorist group. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia said dealing with Beirut was “pointless” due to Hizbullah’s dominance.

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