US orders diplomats out of Lebanon amid fears
BEIRUT (AP) -- The State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. personnel Friday to leave Lebanon, reflecting fears that an American-led strike on neighboring Syria would unleash more bloodshed in this already fragile nation.
The Lebanese government’s top security body held an emergency meeting and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah put its fighters on high alert.
Lebanon and Syria share a complicated history and a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries. The uprising against President Bashar Assad has intensified divisions among Lebanese religious groups as well as polarization among those who support him and those backing the rebels fighting to topple him.
Lebanon has become completely consumed by the civil war next door. Car bombings, rockets, kidnappings and sectarian clashes -- all related to the conflict -- have become increasingly common in recent months.
Hezbollah, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, has sent its fighters to back Assad’s forces against the rebels and the militant group’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has suggested he would to do everything it takes to save the regime.
Adding to the jitters, the U.S. said it had instructed its nonessential staff to leave Beirut and urged private American citizens to get out of 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 killed hundreds near Damascus.
"Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning," a State Department statement said.
Tourism helps slow Greek recession
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- High tourism revenues helped Greece’s battered economy shrink less than initially estimated in April-June, making a projected exit from a six-year recession in 2014 more likely.
The country’s statistical authority said Friday that the second quarter contraction was 3.8 percent of gross domestic product year-on-year -- considerably better than last month’s flash estimate of 4.8 percent, and the lowest in three years.
This provides a morale boost to the conservative-led government, which faces mass anti-austerity protests over the weekend as well as a grueling inspection by its international creditors later this month.