UAE urges citizens to stay away from Lebanon

Reuters News
Posted: May 19, 2012 7:26 AM
UAE urges citizens to stay away from Lebanon

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates urged its citizens to stay away from Lebanon on Saturday, citing security concerns in a country where fighting prompted by sectarian tensions in neighboring Syria has unsettled areas near a northern port.

A UAE Foreign Ministry official urged all those already in Lebanon - a favorite destination for wealthy Gulf tourists - to leave because of the "tense security situation" in the country, the official news agency WAM reported.

Heavy fighting has rocked Lebanon's northern port of Tripoli in the past week. The clashes, mainly between government troops and gunmen in a Sunni Muslim district, have highlighted how violence in Syria can spill into Lebanon, a country that was garrisoned by Syrian troops until 2005.

Tourists from wealthy Gulf states form the bulk of visitors to Lebanon, whose vital tourism industry has been hit hard by unrest in neighboring Syria.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon last month warned Saudis to stay away from Lebanon's border areas, after two Saudi citizens were kidnapped and tortured for eight days, before being freed in a joint Saudi-Lebanese operation.

Israel borders Lebanon to the south and Syria is its eastern neighbor. There have also been several cases of kidnappings for money in recent years in Lebanon, usually in remote parts of the country.

(Reporting by Firouz Sedarat Editing by Maria Golovnina)