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Middle East

Lebanon foreign minister quits after angering Gulf allies

2 minute read

Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister, talks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, May 19, 2021. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS

BEIRUT, May 19 (Reuters) - Lebanon's foreign minister said he had quit his post on Wednesday, after his comments in a television interview strained ties with traditional Gulf Arab allies and donors.

Charbel Wehbe, a member of Lebanon's caretaker government whose portfolio was taken over by Defence Minister Zeina Akar, suggested on Monday that Gulf states had supported the rise of Islamic State, among other disparaging comments.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain summoned Lebanon's ambassadors and issued formal complaints.

The comments have threatened Lebanese efforts amid its deep economic crisis to improve ties with Sunni Muslim Gulf states, which have been reluctant to offer the kind of financial help they once did because of their frustration at the rising influence of Hezbollah, a Lebanese group backed by Shi'ite Iran.

After meeting President Michel Aoun, Wehbe said he had submitted a request to step down "in light of the recent developments and the circumstances that accompanied the interview I gave to a television station".

Wehbe also met caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, saying afterwards that he hoped his decision to step down would mean relations with Arab nations remained friendly.

The prime minister and president both accepted his request. The defence minister was appointed in Wehbe's place, and she will now act in a caretaker capacity in both roles.

Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Edmund Blair

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