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Lebanese Staff Locks U.S. Ambassador in His Office for 3 Hours Over Wages

From Associated Press

The local staff of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut locked Ambassador John McCarthy in his office for three hours to press for higher salaries, an embassy source disclosed today.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Lebanese staff, including guards armed with rifles, blocked all entrances to the compound Friday afternoon in the suburb of Aukar.

They “prevented anyone from entering” the ambassador’s office. “The ambassador was there alone all the time,” the source said.

He said the protest “lasted for about three hours, after which the Lebanese employees decided to call off the move for a week to give the ambassador time to follow up their demands with Washington.”

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He replied “no comment” when asked what the contingent of U.S. Marines stationed at the compound did during the protest.

The source said the local staff demanded “increase of salaries, and (were) protesting the lack of benefits for their families.” He would not elaborate.

Some of the guards fired in the air “in jubilation after the ambassador promised to take up their demands with Washington,” the source said.

McCarthy, 49, assumed his post on Sept. 24, eight days after his predecessor, John Kelly, was flown out of the country with a heart ailment.

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“Today, the situation is normal at the embassy. But the relationship (between the Lebanese and American employees) will never be the same,” the source added.

He estimated the Lebanese staff at the embassy at 500, but said he could not tell how many were involved in the incident. Most junior U.S. employees have been withdrawn from war-torn Beirut for security considerations the past four years.

Fifteen foreigners, including nine Americans, are missing and presumed kidnapped in Lebanon.


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