U.S. allows families of embassy staff to return to Beirut

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that family members of its embassy staff in Beirut may return to Lebanon, in a sign the volatile security environment has improved.

The department last week allowed non-essential personnel, who had been evacuated last month because of unspecified threats, to return to U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Still, the State Department continued to urge U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Lebanon, citing the potential "for a spontaneous upsurge in violence" in the country, which borders Syria, where a civil war has raged for two and a half years.

The United States tightened security at its diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Turkey on September 6 amid "potential threats," which arose about a week before the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

At the time, non-essential workers and their families were ordered to leave Beirut and given permission to leave Adana, near Turkey's border with Syria.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu)