Last updated: 6 September, 2013

Lebanon boosts security at foreign embassies

Lebanese authorities said on Friday they had boosted security measures at foreign diplomatic missions ahead of any international military action against neighbouring Syria.

The decision was announced after a meeting of Lebanon’s security council, called by President Michel Sleiman amid a US-led push for strikes against Damascus in response to the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

A presidency statement said the council met “in light of the tensions resulting from preparations for potential military action and the regional and international responses that could follow”.

The council noted “measures taken to ensure domestic stability, reassure citizens, protect diplomatic missions and fight against terrorism”.

The meeting, which included the prime minister and security service chiefs, comes as US President Barack Obama seeks congressional approval for military action against Syria.

Obama wants to launch limited military strikes against Damascus in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21, which Washington and much of the international community blames on the regime.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies responsibility for the attack in the suburbs of Damascus, which reportedly killed hundreds of people.

There are fears that any US-led strikes against Syria could prompt retaliatory attacks against Western interests in the region.

On Monday, Assad warned in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro that Paris should consider the repercussions of any involvement in strikes on Syria.

“There will be repercussions, negative ones of course, on the interests of France,” he said.

“We cannot only talk about a Syrian response, but what could happen after the first strike,” Assad said.

“Everyone will lose control of the situation once the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of regional war.”

Lebanon is officially neutral on the conflict in Syria, but has seen existing domestic tensions deepened by the crisis.

Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah backs Assad’s regime and has battled alongside his troops against rebels in Syria, but Lebanese Sunnis largely back the Sunni-led opposition.