U.S. Orders Nonessential Diplomats to Leave Lebanon

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The State Department, apparently concerned about possible strikes on American targets by Syrian government allies, on Friday ordered nonessential diplomats at the United States Embassy in Beirut and their families to leave Lebanon.

The department also said nonessential diplomats and their families could leave the American Consulate in Adana, in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, but did not issue an order.

Both diplomatic posts remain open, though with fewer staff members and more limited operations. On Friday, the department also issued travel warnings urging Americans to avoid southeastern Turkey and Lebanon.

The moves appear to reflect concern that supporters of the Syrian government, like Hezbollah or Iran, might carry out or encourage terrorist attacks on United States diplomats in retaliation for an American-led military strike to punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for a chemical weapons attack last month.

They follow on the heels of a warning the State Department issued on Thursday against all but essential travel to Iraq, saying rising violence there posed a danger to American citizens and diplomatic personnel.

The State Department did not explain precisely why the steps were taken on Friday. A warning on the Web site of the American Embassy in Beirut said only that the step was taken "because of current safety and security concerns" and urged American citizens to avoid traveling there.

"On Sept. 6, the Department of State drew down nonemergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to potential threats to U.S. mission facilities and personnel," the embassy statement said.

"The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains," it added. "Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, roads and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning. Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent."

In his testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said possible retaliatory actions by Mr. Assad and his supporters included "asymmetric" attacks by Hezbollah.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to leave for Lithuania to meet with diplomats from the European Union.

Mr. Kerry is to confer with them on Middle East issues, including Syria, on Saturday. He will then fly to Paris to confer with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, and meet with diplomats from the Arab League. He is also going to London and will confer with William Hague, the British foreign minister.

The State Department said Thursday that terrorist activity and violence in Iraq was "at levels unseen since 2008," and updated its travel warning to Americans.

"U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence," it said.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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