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Cablegate: Travel Warning - Lebanon

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O 211452Z APR 08
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TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
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RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
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RUCPCIM/CIM NTDB WASHINGTON DC
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RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI IMMEDIATE 9956
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE IMMEDIATE 6184
INFO RUESBKC/ATO ASIA IMMEDIATE 1644

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 041693

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PTER ASEC LE
SUBJECT: TRAVEL WARNING - LEBANON

1. This Travel Warning updates information on security
threats and ongoing political tensions in Lebanon, and
informs U.S. citizens of current safety and security
concerns. The Department of State continues to strongly
urge that Americans defer travel to Lebanon and that
American citizens in Lebanon consider carefully the risks
of remaining. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel
Warning for Lebanon issued on October 17, 2007.

2. The U.S. remains concerned about the threat of
terrorist attacks against Western and Lebanese government
interests in Lebanon. Groups such as Al-Qaeda and Jund
al-Sham are present in Lebanon, and they have issued
statements calling for attacks against Western interests.
The Department of State is also concerned that the clashes
between terrorist extremists and the Lebanese Armed Forces
that occurred in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in
northern Lebanon from May to September 2007 could occur in
other camps in Lebanon. U.S. citizens who visit refugee
camps in Lebanon risk becoming trapped during hostilities.

3. There have been several assassinations of military and
political figures in Lebanon within the past year. On
December 12, 2007, a senior member of the Lebanese Armed
Forces was killed by a car bomb; a Lebanese Internal
Security Force officer was killed in a similar fashion on
January 25, 2008. Two anti-Syria Members of Parliament
were assassinated in separate car bombings in Beirut in
June and September 2007. On January 15, 2008, an Embassy
vehicle was damaged and two Embassy employees were injured
in yet another bombing. In each of these incidents
innocent bystanders have been injured or killed.

4. On June 7, 2007, a bomb exploded in the town of Zouk
Mousbeh, north of Beirut. This followed the discovery of
explosive-laden vehicles in Eastern Lebanon. Since May 20
2007, explosions have occurred in the Beirut neighborhoods
of Achrafieh and Verdun, the Beirut suburb of Sad Al-
Bouchrieh, and the resort town of Aley.

5. The terrorist group Hizballah has threatened
retaliatory actions for the assassination of Hizballah
official Imad Fayez Mugniyah, who was killed in Syria by
unknown assailants on February 12, 2008. Prominent
members of Hizballah have intimated that they hold the
United States partially responsible for Mugniyah's death,
and it is possible that someone may lash out against U.S.
interests or persons.

6. Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose significant
dangers throughout southern Lebanon, particularly south of
the Litani River, as well as in areas of Lebanon where
civil war fighting was intense. More than a dozen
civilians have been killed and over 100 injured by
unexploded ordnance following the armed conflict in July-
August 2006. Travelers should watch for posted landmine
warnings and strictly avoid all areas where landmines and
unexploded ordnance may be present.

7. The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens
to defer travel to Lebanon, and urges U.S. citizens
already in Lebanon to carefully consider the risks of
remaining. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Lebanon
are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance;
confirm and maintain the validity of their passports and
other U.S. travel documents for themselves and their
family members; monitor the local security situation and
be ready to depart quickly in the event of any
deterioration in the situation.


STATE 00041693 002 OF 002


8. U.S. citizens traveling to Lebanon or resident in
Lebanon should be aware the U.S. Embassy has limited
ability to reach all areas of Lebanon. The Embassy cannot
guarantee that Embassy employees can render assistance to
U.S. citizens in areas where there is limited government
control, such as the southern part of Lebanon where
Hizballah continues to be active.

9. In a crisis situation, U.S. citizens are responsible
for arranging commercial or private means of
transportation to depart Lebanon. If evacuation is
warranted, only when all other transportation options are
unavailable will the U.S. Government assist U.S. citizens
in leaving a country. This service will be provided on a
cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must
reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the travel.
The lack of valid travel documents will slow the U.S.
Embassy's ability to provide assistance. Further
information on the department's role during emergencies is
provided at
http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emerg encies/emerge
ncies_1212.html.

10. The Department of State considers the threat to U.S.
government personnel in Beirut sufficiently serious to
require them to live and work under strict security
restrictions. These practices limit, and may occasionally
prevent, access by U.S. Embassy officials to certain areas
of the country. Unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S.
government employees and their family members requires
prior approval by the Department of State.

11. The Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias,
Beirut, Lebanon. Public access hours for American
citizens are Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00
a.m.; however, American citizens who require emergency
services outside of these hours may contact the embassy by
telephone at any time. The telephone numbers are (961-4)
542-600, 543-600, and fax 544-209. American citizens may
register with the embassy online by
visiting https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs.
Information on consular services and registration can also
be found at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov or by phone at
the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00
p.m., Monday through Friday local time.

12. Updated information on travel and security in Lebanon
may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-
888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada or, from
overseas, 1-202-501-4444. Additional details can be found
in the Department of State's Country Specific Information
for Lebanon, and the Worldwide Caution, which are
available on the Department's Internet website at
http://travel.state.gov.

13. Minimize considered.
RICE

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