EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — The mayor of a San Diego suburb has announced he will resign after making remarks that were widely criticized as insensitive to Iraqi immigrants.

Mark Lewis said in a letter Thursday that he will step down from the El Cajon position he has held since 1998 after a business group and other elected officials said his comments published in a magazine article were prejudicial.

At a meeting Tuesday, residents chastised Lewis for nearly two hours for the remarks, which suggested that members of the city's Chaldean, or Iraqi Christian, community were improperly taking advantage of school free-lunch programs.

U-T San Diego reported Saturday that Lewis apologized to anyone who was offended. The mayor said he did not intend to be insensitive.

The newspaper said Lewis did not indicate when his resignation would be effective. He has served on the City Council since 1990.

"I was simply expressing my opinion that I believe that the limited social services made available to our residents in El Cajon should go to those most in need of them, including those within the Chaldean community," Lewis said in a statement.

The San Diego branch of the NAACP also called for Lewis' resignation.

There are an estimated 50,000 Chaldeans living in San Diego County, including as many as 12,000 in El Cajon, which has a population of over 100,000.

Lewis said his decision to resign is primarily due to health reasons, which at times caused him "difficulties in clearly communicating my thoughts, including during the recent interviews that have caused understandable concern within our community."