US Embassy In Lebanon Hosting Iftaar Feast Despite Condemnations

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Vincent Battle is planning to hold several traditional Ramadan feasts for local Lebanese Muslims, despite condemnations by anti-American groups.

Pro-Syrian, Palestinian and Islamic political factions in the Syrian controlled Bekaa region in eastern Lebanon have issued public statements condemning Battle's plans to hold an iftaar in Chtaura next week.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims break their daily fast in a celebratory meal, known as the iftaar. President Bush recently hosted one such feast at the White House.

Those who attend the iftaar, including business leaders, could be targeted by local radicals for criticism, boycotts or even violence, press reports said.

But an embassy spokesperson in Beirut said right now, the embassy plans to go ahead with the dinner.

"Many people are calling to say they are coming," said the spokesperson. "[Plans] are going ahead smoothly."

Every year the Embassy hosts several iftaar feasts for Lebanese people connected with the Embassy out of respect for the Muslim community, the spokesperson said. This year, with all the anti-American sentiment in the region, the event has generated anti-American criticism, she added.

Perceived pro-Israel bias, as well as the expected U.S. strike against Iraq, has fueled anti-American feelings in the region.

An American nurse who ran a medical clinic in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon was murdered there last week. The clinic was apparently located in a Muslim fundamentalist area. There have been no arrests.

Press reports said the woman may have been murdered because she was trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. Others have said that she was killed both because of her missionary activity as well as the fact she was an American.

Several U.S. fast-food franchises have also been attacked in Lebanon recently.