Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain urge citizens to avoid Lebanon

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2016 11:03 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday urged their citizens not to travel to Lebanon, days after Riyadh cut $4 billion in aid to Lebanese security forces.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry's announcement, carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, urged citizens already there to depart or to be in contact with the Saudi Embassy in Beirut. It gave no reason for the warning other than unspecified safety concerns.

The United Arab Emirates followed by saying it would pull most of its diplomats out of Lebanon and warned its own citizens not to travel there, according to a statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency. It did not elaborate or offer a reason for the decision.

Bahrain issued its own statement late Tuesday, telling citizens of the tiny island kingdom off Saudi Arabia to avoid travel to Lebanon, while telling citizens already there "to promptly leave and to exercise extreme caution at all times." It offered no reason for the order.

Saudi Arabia announced Friday that it was halting deals worth $4 billion aimed at equipping and supporting Lebanese security forces in retaliation for Lebanon siding with Iran in the Sunni kingdom's spat with the Shiite power.

Lebanon's main political divide pits a Sunni-led coalition against another led by the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement. Lebanon has seen a series of militant attacks in recent years linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Bahrain and the UAE, both Sunni-ruled nations, backed Saudi Arabia in its dispute with Iran, which erupted at the beginning of the year when the kingdom executed a prominent Shiite cleric and protesters later stormed Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran.