WASHINGTON – The State Department ordered famiAly members of U.S. government employees and all nonessential personnel to immediately depart Israel, Syria and Kuwait.
Spokesman Lou Fintor said the decision to issue the order Sunday evening was reached after consultations with the mission chiefs in each of the areas.
"We do not have threat information specific to these areas," he said. "We believe that a move to ordered departure status at this time represents a prudent measure as we prepare for various contingencies in the region, including the possibility of commercial air service disruptions should military action against Iraq become necessary."
He added that the decision "results from an overall assessment of the security situation in the region at this time, a rise in anti-American sentiment in the region and the potential for violence and terrorist action against American targets, especially as the international community continues to discuss the possibility of military action against Iraq."
The departure order updates an advisory last month telling family members and nonessential personnel there were authorized to leave the three countries if they desired, along with personnel and family members stationed in Jordan and Lebanon.
The new order does not make departure from Jordan and Lebanon mandatory.
The State Department also cautioned private citizens to leave the region last month and announced it was closing the Polish office in Baghdad that provided consular service to Americans in the absence of U.S. relations with Iraq.
It renewed those cautions to private citizens in the Sunday announcement and urged them to stay in contact with U.S. diplomatic missions if they do stay in the region.
U.S. embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman; Damascus, Syria; and Beirut, Lebanon, and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem will remain open to help Americans, the State Department said.