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Sat 23 Feb 2008 03:04 PM

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Kuwait warns citizens of travelling to Lebanon

Advisory follows similar statement by Saudi Arabia as stability continues to deteriorate.

Kuwait advised its citizens on Thursday against travelling to Lebanon because of the political standoff between the Sunni-led government and the opposition headed by the Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah group.

Earlier, the Kuwaiti embassy in Beirut was evacuated after an international news agency received an anonymous phone call saying two rockets had been fired at the building. There was no such attack.

"A Foreign Ministry source advised citizens to delay plans to travel to Lebanon... under the present political circumstances," said a statement carried by the official news agency Kuna.

Kuwait's statement followed a similar one on Monday by Saudi Arabia, a major backer of the Lebanese government.

In Paris, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the Kuwaiti statement was "just a precautionary measure" after the phone call over the embassy.

"I strongly believe that this should not be blown out of proportion for the time being," Siniora told reporters as he left a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Lebanon, a favourite destination for Gulf Arab tourists, has been without a president since November because of the standoff, which has led to street clashes between Shi'ites and Sunnis over the past week.

Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990 with a peace pact brokered by Saudi Arabia but this has been strained to breaking point since the assassination in 2005 of former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri, a close ally of Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and Syria.

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