Armed men kidnapped three Syrians in Beirut

Syrian VP Shara not defected: State TV

Armed men kidnapped three Syrians in Beirut on Saturday, Lebanon's state NNA news agency reported, after a wave of mass kidnappings linked to the Syria conflict earlier this week.

The three men were taken from a banana storehouse on the road to Beirut international airport, NNA said.

The abductions came days after a Shiite Muslim clan kidnapped around 20 Syrians in Lebanon in retaliation for the reported abduction by a Syrian rebel group of one of their family members last week.

Two Turks have also been kidnapped, at least one of them by the Muqdad clan.

The wave of abductions caused several Gulf countries to tell their nationals to leave, while Turkey and the United states also warned of possible attacks against their citizens.

Syrian VP Shara not defected: State TV

Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara has not defected, state television said on Saturday, citing a statement from his office after media reports that he had fled.

"Mr Shara has never thought about leaving the country or going anywhere," said the television, which aired no footage of the vice president.

Shara, 73, is the most powerful Sunni Muslim figure in the minority Alawite-led regime of President Bashar al-Assad and has served in top posts for almost 30 years.

The television said Shara's statement also hailed the appointment Friday of new UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the veteran Algerian diplomat who is taking over from Kofi Annan.

Shara has been vice president since 2006 and previously served as foreign minister for more than 20 years both under Assad and his father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad.

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