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Arab-American Group Sues U.S. For Slow Lebanon Evacuation

A leading Arab-American advocacy group has sued the U.S. government, claiming that it failed to protect American citizens from the fighting in Lebanon.

The lawsuit, filed Monday on behalf of about 30 American citizens by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, alleges that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did not take all possible steps to secure the safety and well being of U.S. citizens when fighting erupted between Israel and Hezbollah guerillas.

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The committee is asking the U.S. District Court in Detroit to order the U.S. government to request a cease fire and to stop shipments of weapons or any other military support to Israel during the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon.

"We just feel the U.S. government has put its citizens at risk by supplying missiles when many U.S. citizens are still there," said Nabih Ayad, lead lawyer for the committee and the citizens who were all in Lebanon. Ayad said a few included in the lawsuit are still trying to leave the country.

"We're not trying to interfere with the war, we just want to protect our U.S. citizens and try to bring them back," Ayad said.

U.S. Consul William Gill said most Americans who wanted to leave Lebanon had done so by Sunday and U.S. evacuation efforts were nearly complete. He also urged anyone considering leaving to make up their minds quickly as fighting between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah guerrillas showed no sign of waning.

About 12,000 Americans have been evacuated from Lebanon, officials said. Some 25,000 U.S. citizens were believed to be in Lebanon at the start of hostilities.