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Saudi Arabia and UAE urge citizens out of Lebanon after kidnappings

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Lebanon in the summer is a favorite destination for wealthy citizens of the Gulf monarchies, with its beaches and lax attitudes toward drinking alcohol and relations between the sexes. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in a few days, and the holidays that follow often provide a tourism boost, with Beirut bars and nightclubs packed with wealthy Gulf Arabs.

While a financial blow for businesses in Beirut isn't nice, the warnings from the two Gulf states are a reminder of how much tension there is in the region, and concern it could spark major problems in Lebanon, which has recovered remarkably from the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990, but still remains a nation split along confessional lines, with Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and Druze all maintaining their own political fiefdoms and militias.

Writing on the kidnappings of the Syrians, who their abductors alleged were members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), Nick Blanford explained the Lebanese context today:

Members of the Meqdad clan, a powerful Shiite tribe from the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, announced today that the "military wing" of the family had abducted more than 20 Syrians in Lebanon whom they alleged were fighters with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Meqdads said that the abductions were in response to the kidnapping, allegedly by the FSA, of Hassan Selim Meqdad in Damascus at the beginning of the week. The FSA accused Hassan Meqdad of being a member of Lebanon's militant Shiite group Hezbollah, a strong supporter of the Assad regime. Hezbollah and the Meqdad family have denied the claims, with the latter saying that he was an employee of a Lebanese bank...

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