BEIRUT -- The U.S. State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. personnel Friday to leave Lebanon, reflecting fears that an American-led strike on neighboring Syria would unleash more bloodshed in this already fragile nation.
Lebanon and Syria share a complicated history and a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries. The uprising against President Bashar Assad has intensified divisions among Lebanese religious groups as well as polarization among those who support him and those backing the rebels fighting to topple him.
In a separate advisory for Turkey, the State Department announced it would allow personnel at the Adana consulate -- the closest diplomatic post to Syria -- to leave their posts. It recommended that U.S. citizens defer nonessential travel to southeastern Turkey.
EU court blocks sanctions
BRUSSELS -- In a setback for U.S. attempts to isolate Iran, a European Union court threw out sanctions Friday on seven Iranian companies, including four banks, rejecting arguments that they were acting as front companies to bypass the punitive measures.
The General Court in Brussels, the union's second-highest tribunal, ruled that the bloc wrongly imposed sanctions against the Iranian companies as part of its efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, a decision that immediately drew the ire of U.S. officials.
They took the opposite tack Friday, imposing restrictions on a network of six individuals and four businesses for links to oil sales.
U.S. tries to ease tensions
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- President Barack Obama says his administration will work with the governments of Brazil and Mexico to resolve tensions over allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency monitored their communications.
Mr. Obama met separately with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the sidelines of an international economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Military hot-line restored
SEOUL, South Korea -- North and South Korea restored their military hot-line in another sign of improving ties, bolstering efforts to reopen their jointly run industrial park shuttered in April at the height of tensions between the nations.
Officials from the two countries spoke Friday on the hot-line for the first time since March, when the North threatened war against South Korea and the United States, the South's Unification Ministry said in a text message.
The restoration brightens prospects for the outcome of talks between the two countries scheduled for Sept. 10 at Kaesong, where they will try to set a date for reopening the factory park. The site was seen as a symbol of reconciliation between the countries.
Religious group raided
BERLIN -- Police raided a Christian sect in southern Germany, taking 40 children into foster care on suspicion they were physically abused and seizing sticks allegedly used to hit them, authorities said Friday.
Members of the so-called "Twelve Tribes" sect acknowledged that they believe in spanking their children, but denied wrongdoing.
Augsburg prosecutors said they had opened an official investigation into an undetermined number of the adult members of the sect on suspicion of causing serious bodily harm and mistreatment of children.