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For U.S. Citizens Seeking Assistance in Lebanon, Comments by Department Spokesman Sean McCormack: FULL STREAMING VIDEO and M3U for streaming PODCAST, or download the MP3 FILE
Lebanon Situation Update, United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Washington, DC 20520
This information is current as of today, Mon Jul 17 15:41:07 2006.
This Warden Message is to update Americans to the ongoing security concerns in Lebanon. The Embassy is monitoring the situation in Lebanon closely and is reviewing all options for assisting Americans who wish to depart Lebanon. The U.S. Department of State continues to work with the U.S. Department of Defense on a plan to help American citizens safely depart Lebanon. Additional information on departure plans, as it becomes available, will be released via the media, Embassy warden announcements, and on the Embassy website. The Department of State continues to work around the clock to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens.
Beirut International Airport, which is severely damaged by bombings, remains closed. Americans who wish to depart Lebanon should prepare important travel documents such as a valid U.S. passport, birth certificates, and other civil documents such as marriage certificates, and medical records.
Once U.S.-sponsored travel arrangements are in place, travelers will each be allowed only one small suitcase. We give priority to U.S. citizens but will consider departure assistance to Legal Permanent Residents accompanying a U.S. citizen immediate family member. ONE guardian may accompany an American citizen minor, even if that guardian is not an American. The guardian must have a valid passport and a U.S. visa, if traveling to the U.S. We understand that neither Lebanese nor Americans need a visa to enter Cyprus. Pets will not be allowed to travel.
The Department of State has issued an updated Travel Warning, available at travel.state.gov, alerting American citizens that, due to ongoing security concerns in Lebanon, the U.S. Embassy has been granted authorized departure status. Family members and non-emergency American employees have permission to depart Lebanon.
We continue to urge Americans to remain in a safe location. Although we understand that Syria is willing to admit Americans without visas, there have been reports of damage to the border crossings at Mesnaa and along the northern Lebanon-Syrian border. However, if people encounter difficulty at the border crossing into Syria, they should contact the American Embassy in Damascus at 963-11-333-1342. Americans who attempt such crossings are advised to exercise great caution when traveling on major roads as they are subject to an air strike at any time.
The U.S. Embassy remains open for business; however, Nonimmigrant Visa processing has been suspended. American Citizen Services and Immigrant Visa processing are functioning normally. American citizens are urged to continue to evaluate their personal security and to keep in contact with the U.S. Embassy for continuing information on developments.
For the latest security information, Americans should regularly monitor the Department's web site at travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, or Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. The available time for these numbers of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S./federal holidays) has been extended to 24 hours a day until further notice.
Americans living or traveling in Lebanon who wish assistance departing Lebanon and have not yet registered are encouraged to register with Department of State by calling 888-407-4747 in the United States or 202-501-4444 outside the United States.
Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, a radical Shi'a organization listed by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, retains its weapons. During Lebanon's civil war, the Arab League legitimized in the Ta'if Accord Syria's troop deployment, numbering about 16,000 based mainly east of Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley.
Damascus justified its continued military presence in Lebanon by citing Beirut's requests and the failure of the Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the Ta'if Accord. Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, however, encouraged some Lebanese groups to demand that Syria withdraw its forces as well. The passage of UNSCR 1559 in early October 2004 - a resolution calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and end its interference in Lebanese affairs - further emboldened Lebanese groups opposed to Syria's presence in Lebanon.
The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq HARIRI and 20 others in February 2005 led to massive demonstrations in Beirut against the Syrian presence ("the Cedar Revolution"). Syria finally withdrew the remainder of its military forces from Lebanon in April 2005. In May-June 2005, Lebanon held its first legislative elections since the end of the civil war free of foreign interference, handing a two-thirds majority to the bloc led by Saad HARIRI, the slain prime minister's son. CIA FACTBOOK.
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