July 16, 2006

Some US embassy staff to leave Lebanon

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - The United States has authorized
the departure of some personnel from the U.S. embassy in
Lebanon due to the upsurge in violence in the country, the
White House said on Sunday.

There are an estimated 25,000 Americans in the country.
Israeli air raids struck Beirut on a fifth day of a bombardment
that has killed 112 people.

Non-essential travel by American officials from the embassy
compound will be restricted while the security situation is
assessed, said Frederick Jones, spokesman for the White House
National Security Council.

"The embassy in Beirut is not being evacuated," Jones said.

Citing "ongoing security concerns," he said the State
Department has granted permission to leave to non-essential
embassy employees.

"The embassy is open and will remain open in support of
American citizens in Lebanon," Jones said.

U.S. helicopters carried planning and security assessment
teams arrived by U.S. helicopter at the embassy to help arrange
the evacuation of some American citizens in the country, the
embassy said in a statement on its Web site.

"The arrival of the teams is an important first step in
facilitating the safe departure of Americans who want to leave
Lebanon," the statement said.