Lebanese and Syrian protesters. (ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Matthew Lee, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department is ordering nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon due to security concerns as the Obama administration and Congress debate military strikes on neighboring Syria.
In a new travel warning for Lebanon issued early Friday, the department said it had instructed nonessential staffers to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to depart Lebanon.
The step had been under consideration since last week, when President Barack Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons attack last month that the administration said killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus.
Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian president that has sent fighters into Syria, is based in Lebanon.