The rift comes days after a video circulated on social media in which Lebanon’s information minister described the war in Yemen as aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Saudi decision to ban imports from Lebanon comes as the nation is in dire need of foreign currency amid its worst economic crisis. (AFP)

A Lebanese crisis group of ministers have met to discuss a deepening diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia that has seen the kingdom expel Lebanon’s envoy to the Gulf state and ban all Lebanese imports.

Richard Michaels, deputy head of the US mission in Lebanon, joined the crisis meeting on Saturday, a US Embassy spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

The meeting comes amid a row over critical comments made by Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen that has thrown the government into a new crisis.

Saudi Arabia ordered the “recall of the ambassador in Lebanon for consultations, and the departure of Lebanon’s ambassador to the kingdom within 48 hours”, over the “insulting” remarks made this week by Lebanon’s information minister, the foreign ministry said.

The wealthy Gulf kingdom also “decided to halt all Lebanese imports”, citing the “security of the kingdom and its people”, a statement added.

Hours later, the Kingdom of Bahrain ordered the Lebanese ambassador to leave the country within two days for the same reason, Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

On Saturday, Kuwait ordered Lebanon’s charge d’affaires to leave the country and recalled its ambassador from Beirut in protest.

The senior Lebanese diplomat was given 48 hours to leave Kuwait, the Gulf Arab state’s official news agency KUNA said, quoting a foreign ministry statement.

The Arab League said in a statement on Saturday it was concerned about the souring of Lebanese-Gulf relations and appealed to Gulf countries “to reflect on the measures proposed to be taken…in order to avoid further negative effects on the collapsing Lebanese economy”.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed “deep concern and regret over the rapid deterioration in Lebanese-Gulf relations…,” the statement said.

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Furor over comments on Yemen 

Kordahi said in a television interview that the Iran-backed Huthi rebels were “defending themselves… against an external aggression”, adding that “homes, villages, funerals and weddings were being bombed” by the coalition.

In the interview – filmed in August but aired on Monday – he also called the seven-year war in Yemen “futile” and said it was “time for it to end”.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati asked Kordahi on Friday evening to consider Lebanon’s “national interest” but stopped short of asking for his resignation.

If Kordahi resigns, ministers backed by the heavily armed Shia Hezbollah group and its Amal ally could follow suit at a time when the government is already paralysed by a dispute over an inquiry into the August 2020 Beirut blast.

Kordahi has been publicly backed by Hezbollah and has declined to apologise or resign over the comments, which have dealt the worst blow to Saudi-Lebanese relations since the 2017 detention in Riyadh of then-Lebanese premier Saad al Hariri.

Saudi Arabia lists the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

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