By Kevin Krolicki
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
DETROIT - An Arab-American civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit on Monday charging the Bush administration with failing to protect the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens trapped in Lebanon by the Israeli military offensive.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, seeks an emergency court order that would compel the U.S. government to stop sending weapons to Israel as long as U.S. citizens are trying to leave Lebanon.
The group also is asking for an injunction that would force Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to request a ceasefire and an order that U.S. officials "increase their evacuation efforts and use all resources at their disposal," including more military transports and commercial charters.
"This is not an issue of the Israel and Lebanese conflict. We're only addressing the issue of United States citizens' concerns for being free from harm," Nabih Ayad, lead lawyer for the ADC, told reporters.
The suit, which names Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as defendants, charges the United States mismanaged efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens from Lebanon after Israel launched a military offensive against the Hizbollah militia in response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
A U.S. Justice Department spokesman said the government had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment. A State Department official defended the U.S. government's evacuation efforts.
The State Department said about 25,000 Americans were in Lebanon when the hostilities started and that 13,600 had been evacuated as of Monday.