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U.S. Orders Diplomats Out of Lebanon Over Security Concerns

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FILE - In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013 file photo provided by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian victim who suffered an alleged chemical attack at Khan al-Assal village according to SANA, receives treatment by doctors at a hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Russian experts took samples from the deadly March 19 attack in Syria, which international analysts have determined contained sarin nerve gas, Russia's U.N. ambassador said Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Credit: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon due to security concerns Friday 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.

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. Hezbollah, an Assad ally that has sent fighters into Syria, is based in Lebanon.

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