U.S. calls for calm in Lebanon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday called for calm in Lebanon after the country’s parliament failed to elect a new president and the army was ordered to take charge of security.

The U.S. State Department also issued a public announcement alerting U.S. citizens about the “strong possibility” of demonstrations and unrest in Lebanon because of the presidential crisis.

Earlier on Friday, Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud ordered the army to take charge of security after political rivalries blocked the election of his successor hours before he was due to step down.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, in urging calm, called on all parties to follow their constitutional duties and elect a new president to replace Lahoud as soon as possible.

“The United States government commends Lebanon’s armed forces and security services for their stated commitment to ensuring law and order during this interim period and we urge all Lebanese political groups to do their part to maintain calm and promote security for Lebanon’s citizens,” said McCormack, whose statement was released as emergency rule was declared.

He repeated U.S. concerns of Syrian interference in the electoral process in Lebanon.

“The United States and its allies will not waver in our support for the people of Lebanon as they defend their freedom against all attempts at foreign interference and intimidation,” he said.

Separately, the State Department cautioned U.S. citizens living in or visiting Lebanon that public demonstrations could turn “confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.”

“U.S. citizens should maintain a low profile in public and avoid predictable or habitual behavior,” it said.