Saudi Arabia orders citizens to avoid Lebanon, Emirates follows suit

Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon, broadcaster al-Arabiya reported Tuesday, amid a worsening row between the two governments over Iran.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran last month, angered by the Islamic republic's criticism of its execution of a prominent dissident Shiite clergyman and a mob attack on its embassy in Tehran.

Riyadh, which has seen its influence in Beirut wane in recent years, was upset the Lebanese government did not support the kingdom in the recent row with Iran, and at what it said were hostile "political and media positions led by the so-called Hezbollah in Lebanon."

The United Arab Emirates followed Saudi Arabia and placed a ban on its citizens traveling to Lebanon and said it would reduce the number of diplomats in the Mediterranean country, the state-run WAM news agency reported.

Saudi Arabia decided last week to halt a 4-billion-dollar grant for the Lebanese security forces, a major blow for Lebanon.

Lebanese politics are sharply divisive and often the cabinet tries to steer clear of choosing sides in foreign disputes.

Among the tense issues is support for Hezbollah, a Shiite movement, and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Iran. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy, supports the opposition.

Lebanon is a popular holiday destination for Saudi citizens and many own property in the coastal country.

The country, which neighbours Syria, has taken in about 1.5 million refugees fleeing the civil war next door. There are growing concerns about security threats, including from al-Qaeda.

Last update: Tue, 23/02/2016 - 19:29

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