Lebanon holds crisis talks amid hostage standoff
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Lebanese government and security chiefs held emergency talks on Thursday in hopes of defusing sectarian tensions as the ongoing conflict in Syria spurned a wave of kidnappings and violence.
AFP - Lebanon's president held urgent talks with security chiefs and ministers Thursday after an eruption of violence in Beirut, including mass kidnappings, over events in neighbouring Syria.
Several Gulf states ordered their nationals Wednesday to leave Lebanon, with the United Arab Emirates warning that the situation was "very dangerous."
A Shiite Muslim clan claimed Wednesday it had kidnapped 33 Syrians and a Turkish man after a family member was kidnapped this week by a Syrian rebel group which accused him of being a Hezbollah sniper.
And dozens more Syrians were kidnapped and their shops vandalised by rioters in Shiite areas of Beirut on Wednesday, according to the state-run National News Agency.
"I met with security leaders and the ministers concerned to discuss the issue of kidnappings and counter-kidnappings," President Michel Sleiman said.
"We hope to resolve this diplomatically," he said. "God willing, the Lebanese in Syria will be released and so will the kidnapped Syrians in Lebanon."
Violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon, denting the country's already fragile security situation, with cross-border shootings, shelling by the Syrian army, tit-for-tat kidnappings and sectarian clashes.
Lebanon has taken in around 38,000 refugees from the conflict across the border in Syria, which erupted in March last year.