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.
A message posted to the embassy's website begins this way:
"On September 6 2013, the Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel. The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks."
The U.S. closed 19 embassies and consulates across Africa and the Middle East last month for more than a week after a terrorist threat.