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Lebanon says French comedian is welcome

Lebanon says French comedian is welcome

A Lebanese Cabinet minister said Tuesday a French comedian of Jewish descent is welcome to perform in Lebanon and even offered to receive him at the airport, defying a Hezbollah campaign claiming he served in the Israeli army.
The remarks by outgoing Tourism Minister Elie Marouni came three days after comedian Gad Elmaleh canceled his participation in a festival in Lebanon next month because he apparently feared for his safety after Hezbollah's claims, which were denied by his agent.
Two other Lebanese ministers also criticized Hezbollah's campaign in a rare challenge to the Iranian-backed militant group, which suffered a major setback against the country's pro-Western coalition in June 7 parliamentary elections.
"In my name as the tourism minister, or as a Lebanese state, we tell Gad Elmaleh he is welcome in Lebanon," Marouni said at a news conference.
Marouni said Lebanese authorities had granted Elmaleh permission to enter the country, saying "we are ready to receive him at the airport in order to affirm that Lebanon is a land of freedom and creativity."
Elmaleh, known for his one-man comic acts, had been scheduled to give three performances July 13-15 at a festival in the mountains outside Beirut.
Noura Jumblatt, head of the festival's organizing committee, said the group had received threats against allowing Elmaleh to perform.
Marouni stressed that cultural and arts festivals are essential to attract Arab and foreign tourists to Lebanon in summer.
"We have to keep arts, culture and tourism away from politics," he said.
Lebanon and Israel technically remain in a state of war, and it is illegal for Lebanese to have contacts with the Jewish state.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said Elmaleh, who is of Moroccan-Jewish descent, was an avid supporter of Israel and showed a purported picture of him wearing an Israeli military uniform. The performer's agent denied the report's claims and said the photo was a fake.
Lebanon's information and culture ministers, speaking at the news conference with Marouni, also criticized the media campaign against Elmaleh.
"The way the campaign was launched has probably harmed Lebanon's image," outgoing Information Minister Tarek Mitri said.


Updated : 2021-05-07 08:56 GMT+08:00