From: Reuters
Published January 16, 2008 08:29 AM

U.S. Embassy limits staff movement after Beirut bomb

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon restricted its staff movements and urged Americans to avoid popular areas, a day after a bomb damaged a U.S. diplomatic car and killed three people in a Christian suburb north of Beirut.

The bomb blast coincided with President George W. Bush's weeklong tour to the Middle East and came amid political conflict in Lebanon between the U.S.-backed governing coalition and the Damascus-backed opposition.

"The Embassy ... reminds all Americans residing in Lebanon to maintain a high level of vigilance, especially when planning travel," the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon said on its Web site in a statement dated Tuesday.

"Americans are also advised to avoid popular gathering spots and to report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement officials," it said, adding limits had been imposed on embassy personnel's movements.


The attack, which took place about a 20 minute-drive from the heavily fortified U.S. embassy, revived memories of attacks on U.S. personnel in Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war.

On Wednesday, Lebanese and American investigators combed through the bomb site searching for clues.

Security sources said investigators were working to drain water from a blast crater to find remnants of Tuesday's bomb that also wounded 16 people, one of whom was an embassy driver.

Lebanese internal security forces said about 20 kg of TNT explosives had been placed in a Honda car.

The United States is the anti-Syrian majority's most influential backer in its political battle with the Hezbollah-led opposition.

The conflict has paralyzed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government for more than a year and blocked the election of army chief General Michel Suleiman as president, leaving Lebanon with no head of state for the first time since the civil war.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa was due in Beirut later on Wednesday seeking to push the rival leaders towards agreement on an Arab initiative to end the political crisis.

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Charles Dick)

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