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The local security environment limits the movement of U.S. officials in certain areas of the country. This factor, and limited staffing, prevent the U.S. Embassy from performing full consular functions and providing timely assistance in all cases to Americans in Lebanon. Dual nationals and spouses of Lebanese citizens may encounter particular difficulties (see paragraphs 17 and 20). All Department of State employees and their families, and all U.S. Government employees and their families under the authority of a Chief of Mission abroad, are restricted from unofficial travel in Lebanon without prior approval by the Department of State. American air carriers are prohibited from use of Beirut International Airport due to continuing concern about passenger and aircraft security arrangements. In view of this concern, official government travelers currently use the airport on a limited basis.
The expiration of the passport restriction in July 1997 and the removal of the restriction on sale of airline tickets to Lebanon in June 1998 should not be construed as a determination by the Department of State that travel to Lebanon is without risk. The Department of State keeps the security situation in Lebanon under close review and will address additional risks and take any other appropriate steps as necessary. In particular, U.S. citizens who travel to Lebanon should avoid the southern suburbs of Beirut and portions of the Biqa' Valley and Southern Lebanon. Palestinian camps are outside the control of the Lebanese government. Areas inside and along the borders of the Israeli-occupied zone are unsettled and subject to frequent armed conflict. All of these areas should be avoided and visitors to Lebanon should monitor the news for reports of hostilities or incidents that might affect their personal safety.
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. The country is emerging from a long period of civil war, which has damaged the economy and the social fabric. The population is composed of both Christians and Muslims from a variety of sects. Although the Government of Lebanon has made efforts to expand its control, several areas of the country remain outside of effective government control. The U.S. Government still considers the situation so dangerous that U.S. citizen employees of the American Embassy live under a very strict security regime. They live inside the Embassy9s secured compound, travel only to certain areas of the country, and then only in Embassy motorcades, escorted by armed bodyguards employed by the Embassy.
Hizballah has not been disarmed, and maintains a presence in several areas of the country, including training camps in the Biqa9 Valley. In addition, outside forces still control portions of Lebanon and impinge on the authority of the Lebanese government. About 25,000 Syrian troops are in the country. Israel exerts control in a self-declared "security zone" in the south with 1,"00 troops and through the Army of South Lebanon (SLA). Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S. operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements: Passports and visas are required. Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel may be refused entry into Lebanon. Travelers whose passports contain Israeli stamps or visas and who also hold an "Arab Nationality" according to Lebanese law may be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20524, telephone (202) 939-6300. Additional information can be found on the Embassy of Lebanon's web site http://www.erols.com/lebanon/. Travelers may also contact one of the consulates general of Lebanon, located at 7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90028, telephone (213) 467- 1253; 1959 E. Jefferson, Suite 4A, Detroit, MI 48207, telephone (313) 567-0233; and 9 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021, telephone (212) 744-7905.
Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: The Government of Lebanon does not have effective control in certain areas of the country. Syrian military forces, Israeli military forces, the South Lebanon Army, and Hizballah vie to control parts of Lebanese territory, including the southern suburbs of Beirut, sections of the Biqa' Valley, and south Lebanon. Hostilities can occur in Lebanon with little warning, including attacks by Israeli military forces and random or planned criminal acts. A cycle of raids and counterraids in the south continues between Hizballah and its allies on one side, and Israeli military forces and the SLA on the other. Civilians in the south continue to suffer artillery and aerial attacks, bombings, and abductions. Occasionally these raids extend as far north as Ba9albak and the Naameh Hills 9 miles south of Beirut.
Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: While the crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, both car thefts and house break-ins occur. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, protecting personal security, and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State's pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa." They are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: In Beirut and the surrounding areas, basic modern medical care and medicines are widely available. Such facilities are not always available in outlying areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure entitled "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad." This brochure is available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page of autofax (202) 647-3000 or on the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention9s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1- 877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Lebanon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: good
Drivers often maneuver aggressively, and pay little regard to traffic lights and stops signs. Lanes are generally unmarked. Pedestrians especially should exercise great caution, as parked cars often obstruct the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets.
AVIATION SECURITY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Lebanon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lebanon's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Lebanon9s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet Home Page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at telephone (703) 697-7288.
AIRPORT SECURITY: The Federal Aviation Administration has not certified Beirut International Airport as secure for U.S. carriers. U.S. carriers may not fly into Beirut, and the Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines, is prohibited from flying into the United States.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Lebanese customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of such items as firearms or antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington or one of Lebanon9s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport and Lebanese visa with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. consular protection - when available - is severely limited for dual nationals traveling on a foreign passport.
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE: Lebanese males 18 to 30 years old are subject to mandatory military service of one year. Dual nationals who visit Lebanon are not exempt, except as allowed by Lebanese law. Dual nationals should contact the military office of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. for details prior to traveling to Lebanon.
BUSINESS DISPUTES OR EMPLOYMENT: Travelers who enter Lebanon on work visas under the sponsorship of a Lebanese company or individual may face problems and be unable to leave the country before the completion of their contract without the agreement of their employer. In cases of a business dispute, if jurisdiction falls under local law, the Lebanese party to a contract may obtain an injunction to prevent the departure of a foreign party from the country until the dispute is settled. In such cases, the U.S. Embassy can provide a list of local lawyers to assist U.S. citizens, but ultimate responsibility for the resolution of a dispute rests with the parties.
CUSTODY/FAMILY ISSUES: Lebanese fathers of minor children (under 18 years of age) may legally prevent their children from leaving or being taken from Lebanon. Likewise, a Lebanese husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place, the Embassy cannot assist American citizens to leave Lebanon. For further information on children9s issues, please consult the following Internet address: http://travel.state.gov/children9s_issues.html.
DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws and legal practices of the country in which they travel. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs are severe in Lebanon, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Individuals charged with drug offenses are not usually releasable on bail and can expect to remain in jail while judicial authorities prepare their cases for prosecution.
Y2K INFORMATION: U.S. citizens contemplating traveling or residing abroad in late 1999 or early 2000 should be aware of potential difficulties. They may wish to consider taking practical precautions against possible disruptions of services triggered by the Y2K computer phenomenon. Monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/y2kca.html for updates on Y2K issues.
EMBASSY LOCATION/REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Lebanon are encouraged to register and obtain updated security information at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. For security reasons, personal access to the Consular Section is not possible unless prior arrangements have been made. Therefore, contact with the U.S. Embassy on the specific requirements for registration should take place by phone, fax, or mail. The U.S. Embassy is located in Antelias, P.O. Box 70-840, Beirut, Lebanon. The telephone numbers are (961-4) 402-200, 403-300, 426-183, 417-774, 889-926, fax 402-168.
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