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Saudi Arabia, Gulf allies raise Lebanon travel warning amid Iran row

Tourists take pictures on Greek ruins in Faqra, Mount Lebanon, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia and Bahrain warned their citizens on Tuesday against travel to Lebanon, citing safety concerns, and the United Arab Emirates said it was banning its nationals from visiting the Mediterranean country.

The moves by the Gulf Arab allies came after Saudi Arabia last week suspended aid worth $3 billion to the Lebanese army over the Beirut government’s failure to sign up to statements condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain both urged citizens currently in Lebanon to leave quickly for their own safety. They have both issued previous warnings on security grounds for Lebanon, which is located next to war-ravaged Syria.

In a terse statement carried by the state news agency WAM that gave no reason for its new travel ban, the UAE foreign ministry said it would also reduce the number of its diplomats stationed in Beirut.

In Lebanon’s tangled political scene, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are staunchly opposed to Hezbollah, a political party in the governing coalition that also has a powerful militia backed by Iran, Riyadh’s arch regional rival.

Hezbollah fighters are playing a crucial role fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf Arab states are opposed to Assad.

Relations between Shi’ite Iran and Saudi Arabia hit a new low last month when Saudi authorities executed Saudi Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, along with three other Shi’ites and 43 members of al Qaeda, on terrorism charges.

Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the country, leading the kingdom to cut off ties.

Reporting By Noah Browning and Ali Abdelatti and Katie Paul; editing by Gareth Jones