U.S. embassy in Lebanon says evacuating non-essential staff

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The U.S. embassy in Beirut said Friday its non-essential staff and family members are being evacuated from Lebanon because of “threats to U.S. mission facilities and personnel.”

“On September 6 2013, the Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to U.S. mission facilities and personnel,” a statement on the embassy website said.

There were no details on any specific threats to the embassy or information on how many people were effected by the decision.

The decision comes just a week after Washington’s new ambassador to Lebanon, David Hale, arrived in Beirut.

The move was announced as US President Barack Obama presses Congress to authorize military strikes against neighboring Syria in response to an alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack Washington has blamed on the regime.

The potential strikes have raised the prospect of regional repercussions, including by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, which is allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. State Department has already warned US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon and recommended those in the country make plans to leave.

The conflict in Syria has increasingly spilled over into Lebanon, which is also hosting more than 700,000 refugees who have fled the violence.

Last month, Britain updated its travel warning for Lebanon, urging citizens to avoid all but essential travel because of a “heightened risk of anti-Western sentiment” linked to potential strikes against Syria.

The British Foreign Office said Friday it had not ordered the withdrawal of non-essential staff from the embassy in Beirut.

But it said that all dependents of British diplomatic staff had left after the travel warning was updated on August 30.

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