BEIRUT: Security has been beefed up around Arab and Western embassies in Lebanon after the Arab League decision to suspend Syria was met with attacks on diplomatic missions there, the interior minister's office told The Daily Star Friday.
“Security around Arab and non-Arab embassies which are directly affected by the regional situation has been boosted,” Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in remarks published Friday in pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat and confirmed by his office.
Security and ministerial sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star that security measures around embassies across the country – including those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and the U.S. – have more than doubled in recent days.
The Arab League decision over the weekend to suspend Syria from its meetings over its violent suppression of anti-government demonstrations was met with angry protests and attacks on several diplomatic missions there, including those of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France and Morocco. Rabat and Paris pulled their ambassadors out of Syria in protest.
Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat published a statement Friday from an opposition group calling itself the "Syrian Liberal Party," in which the party said it had "received information from Syrian security members cooperating with us that the Syrian Air Force Intelligence plans to attack the Qatari Embassy in Beirut and kidnap Qatari nationals in Lebanon."
Security sources told The Daily Star that personnel from the highly-trained Rapid Intervention squad of the Internal Security Forces have been put on alert to back up the various diplomatic missions across Beirut in the event of possible security threats.
Police were also directed to increase surveillance of embassies for unusual activity and intensify road patrols around the embassies as well as ambassadors’ residences, the sources added.
The ISF was also instructed to be on the lookout for any suspicious persons or foreign objects around the embassies to ward against any possible explosion or attack.
The sources said Charbel had acknowledged during private meetings that security around embassies had been enhanced in “an effort to thwart any possible attack that would have repercussions on Lebanon's stability.”