DUH! I hate it when the obvious is denied for so long.
U.S. warns its diplomats in Beirut, EU peace-keepers plan exit
WASHINGTON — The United States has restricted the movement of its diplomats in Lebanon and European Union states are preparing to pull out from its peace-keeping mission as the Hizbullah threat to the Beirut government increases.
Officials said EU states have concluded that Lebanon would become much more dangerous amid the resurgence of Hizbullah and the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
They said the Lebanese Army, particularly in the south, was increasingly regarded as aligned with Hizbullah and could no longer be relied upon to protect the 13,500 UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
Officials said the U.S. embassy in Beirut has banned staffers from traveling throughout most of Lebanon, including its capital. They said the embassy has concluded that Americans could come under attack amid a confrontation between the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and pro-Syrian elements.
"The embassy is limiting the movement of embassy personnel during this time, specifically in downtown Beirut near the parliament building and other government offices," the embassy said in a warden message on Nov. 17.
The warden message said the embassy was restricting all but essential travel to Beirut International Airport from Nov. 20 to Nov. 26. During this period, Siniora was expected to convene parliament for a vote on a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.
After being deployed for nearly 14 months, European Union states were examining a timetable for a withdrawal from a United Nations peace-keeping mission in Lebanon.
"There could be a withdrawal in early 2008," an official said. "It's very much on the agenda."
[On Nov. 12, a French soldier in UNIFIL was killed in what was termed an accidental weapon discharge. Another soldier was wounded in the incident.]
In mid-2007, at least six UNIFIL troops were killed in bombings attributed to Al Qaida or other insurgents in southern Lebanon. Since then, UNIFIL has significantly reduced its activities in southern Lebanon and coordinates all patrols with the Lebanese Army.
On Nov. 15, a Lebanese newspaper, A-Safir, reported that Al Qaida struck UN troops in an effort to sow discord between peace-keepers and the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah. The pro-Hizbullah newspaper also said an Al Qaida cell, which included a Libyan national, also sought to assassinate Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah.