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Saudi Arabia, UAE urge citizens against traveling to Lebanon

The UAE has said it will prevent its citizens from traveling to Lebanon and reduce its diplomatic mission there. The announcement comes shortly after Saudi Arabia urged its citizens to leave Lebanon.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Tuesday it was banning citizens from traveling to Lebanon, as tensions grow between countries in the region over an ongoing dispute with Iran.

"The Foreign and International Cooperation Ministry announced that it had raised its warning situation on traveling to Lebanon to banning travel there," the government said in a statement. "[It] also decided to reduce the members of its diplomatic mission in Beirut to its furthest extent."

The announcement followed a statement from Saudi Arabia urging its citizens to leave Lebanon.

Worsening relations

Saudi embassy in Beirut

The Saudi embassy in Beirut

Their moves come amid growing tension in the region following protests that targeted the Saudi embassy in Iran. Following Riyadh's execution of senior Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January, a crowd of people in Tehran broke into the building, tearing up flags and documents and setting it on fire.

That incident led to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan to cut ties with Iran.

Now, the countries' anger has turned toward Lebanon for its support of Hezbollah, an Iran-backed, Shiite terrorist organization, as well as embattled President Bashar al Assad, whom those countries want to see ousted.

Billions in aid halted

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE specified why they were calling on their citizens not to go to Lebanon. However, their announcement followed a decision by Saudi Arabia to halt a deal to arm the Lebanese army with some $4 billion (3.7 billion euros) in weapons, citing the country's refusal to condemn the embassy attacks in Tehran.

In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia's state news agency, the government called Lebanon's support for Iran "regrettable and unjustified" and "inconsistent with the fraternal relations between the two countries."

Relations in the Middle East have become fraught as Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the region. The two countries' support for opposing sides in the ongoing Syrian conflict has contributed considerably to the tensions.

blc/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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