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U.S. to pull some Beirut staffers

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 6:12 p.m.
A Lebanese pro-Syrian regime supporter, holds a placard with Arabic that reads, 'the Zionist-American project shall fail,' during a demonstration against a possible military strike in Syria, near the U.S. Embassy in Awkar, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. The prospect of a U.S.-led strike against Syria has raised concerns of potential retaliation from the Assad regime or its allies. The State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon over security concerns and urged private American citizens to depart as well. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday ordered nonessential American diplomats and the families of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut to leave Lebanon immediately because of security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighboring Syria. The department also authorized the voluntary departure of diplomats and families at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey, which is the closest American diplomatic post to Syria in Turkey.

In a new travel warning for Lebanon, the department said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart the country “due to threats to U.S. mission facilities and personnel. “

“The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains,” it said.

“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,” the statement said. “Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent. Family, neighborhood or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning.”

Americans in Lebanon “should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks,” it said, adding that those who chose to stay “should prepare to depart at short notice.”

The step had been under consideration since last week when President Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month.

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