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Mon 18 Feb 2008 05:19 PM

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Saudi advises citizens not to visit Lebanon

Government warns that political instability and security problems could pose risk.

Saudi Arabia on Monday advised its citizens not to travel to Lebanon because of political and security problems.

"The foreign ministry advised Saudi citizens not to travel to Lebanon in light of unstable political and security circumstances in Lebanon right now," a statement from the official news agency SPA said, in a rare move for Saudi Arabia.

"This is to ensure safety and security and prevent being exposed to any harm," it said, citing a ministry source.

"The ministry called on Saudis in Lebanon to take precautions and care in their movements."

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is a major backer of the Sunni-led government in Lebanon which is locked in a political battle with an opposition movement led by Shi'ite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria.

Lebanon has been without a president since November because of the stalemate, which has led to a number of 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 which has been strained to breaking point since the assassination in 2005 of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim leader, was a close ally of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon. (Reuters)

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