Lebanon - no president, a quarter of the Cabinet has resigned, parliament deadlocked - assassinations, bombs - riots - Uncle Sam appears at sea
Future Television, is a Lebanese TV Channel owned by Saad Hariri who heads the majority anti-Syrian bloc in parliament. On Saturday the station broadcast advice that the Saudi Arabian Embassy was advising their mationals to leave Lebanon "as soon as possible."
A government source said that the Lebanese government was advised about the Saudi decision which called on their citizens to "leave Lebanon if they can and to be very careful in their movements inside the country."
Kuwaiti citizens living in Lebanon are also reported to have received urgent messages on their mobiles saying that "all Kuwaiti citizens are asked to evacuate Lebanon as soon as possible."
On February 18th, Saudi Arabia issued a travel restriction advisory, urging citizens to avoid Lebanon because of the "unstable" security situation in the country.
This was a result of some factions of the Hezbollah-led opposition accusing Saudi Arabia of blocking a settlement to the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon. It also followed sharp verbal attacks by pro-Syrian figures against Saudi officials.
The anti-Syrian majority coalition blames Syria and Iran for obstructing a settlement in Lebanon.
The UK Embassy advice remains unchanged since their Letter to Wardens on January 30th .."We have not changed the main message of the FCO travel advice for Lebanon, that British nationals should not travel to Lebanon unless their visit is essential. For those of you already here, avoid large crowds and public demonstrations, which have the potential to turn violent.... "
Observers have said major Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf states, might boycott the forthcoming Arab Summit scheduled for March 29 in Damascus if the Lebanese crisis persists.
Lebanese uneasily feel that their domestic problems are becoming part of a regional conflict - a proxy confrontation between the United States and some of its Arab allies on one side and Hezbollah's allies, Iran and Syria, longtime opponents of America's Mideast policies.
Meanwhile a US naval fleet assembles off the Lebanese coast beyond the Lebanese patrol boats and the 11 UN controlled "peacekeeping" warships. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Washington has regular consultations with Siniora and U.S. allies in the region. "There's constant communications at various levels," he said.
It must be remembered that UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force (MTF) handed over after 14 months to the European Maritime Force (EUROMARFOR) that is currently led by Italy - it will be operating under a United Nations mandate - on February 29th , 2008. Press Release
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is said to speak with the Syrian-backed opposition, linked the deployment of U.S. warships off Lebanon to Israel's missile strikes in Gaza Strip.
"The target [of U.S. warships] is Gaza. It is aimed to allow what must happen in Gaza to happen without anyone moving to support [Palestinians]," Berri said late Friday in an interview with the private ANB television.
"This is a real threat, not merely a muscle-flexing," Berri said. He added that the U.S. military move was designed to focus attention on Lebanon in order to "cover up the massacres being committed in Gaza."
"This [U.S.] fleet comes to back Israel so that it can complete its plan," Berri said.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey, said last week the warships are an important sign of U.S. commitment to security in the region. "It should provide comfort to our friends and, for U.S. adversaries, a reminder that we are there," he said.
He said the U.S. is not drawing a link between the warships and Syria, but added that, "If the Syrians want to take a message from it, happy to have them do so if what that means is it gets them out of the business of subverting democracy and the will of the Lebanese people."
Meanwhile Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday the deployment should not be viewed as threatening or in response to events in any single country.
Military officials did not say when the ships were due to arrive in the eastern Mediterranean. The deployment includes a Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Cole, and the USS Nassau, an amphibious warship, said a military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because full details about the ship movements are not yet public.
During the 1975-1990 civil war US ships were a familiar site, in 1983, at the height of U.S. intervention, about 17 ships - two aircraft carrier battle groups and two mammoth battleships - patrolled the Lebanese coastline, bombarding Muslim militia positions on shore, and a Marine contingent was stationed at Beirut airport.
Suicide bombings - blamed on Mughniyah - against the Marine base and the U.S. Embassy in 1983 and 1984 killed hundreds of Americans, eventually convinced Ronald Reagan to withdraw from Lebanon. The US will fight for Israel but they won't die for it.
The last time U.S. ships came to Lebanon was during the 34-day Second Lebanon War between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, when the American Navy helped evacuate Americans.
Sheik Abdul-Amir Kabalan - deputy head of the influential Supreme Shiite Islamic Council, the religious governing body of Lebanon's 1.2 million Shiites - warned Americans, at a Friday sermon, recalling the 1983 attacks and an unexpected Hezbollah missile attack against an Israeli warship offshore during the 2006 war.
"We warn America and advise it not to play with fire."
Another Dead Body in lebanon - this time in Sidon..
After the 9th season of excavation at Sidon one of the most important coastal towns of ancient Phoenicia, referred to in Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Greek sources has been publishing some details of the last season's work led by John Curtis, Keeper of the Department of the Ancient Near East at the British Museum has been published.
Work has concentrated on remains from the Third Millennium BC, Early Bronze Age in which 69 burials of the Middle Bronze Age were excavated .This is one found with a necklace with amethyst beads. Note the jug accompanying the body.