The United States ordered its non-essential diplomats and the families of all embassy personnel to leave Israel, Syria and Kuwait, in a move that could signal a war with Iraq is imminent.
In separate announcements released Sunday just hours after the leaders of the United States, Britain and Spain gave the UN Security Council a one-day deadline to act to disarm Iraq, the State Department said it was ordering the diplomats to leave for security reasons.
The department said it had taken the step "as a result of a deteriorating security situation in the region" and because of fears of anti-US attacks with chemical or biological weapons.
"The decision to move to ordered departure status is a result of an overall assessment of the security situation in the region due to the threat of military action in Iraq," it said.
"In the event of military action in Iraq, there is a risk that Iraq or terrorist organizations may use chemical and/or biological materials which could affect the region," the department said.
The statements were accompanied by dire warnings for US citizens to cancel any plans to travel to the three countries and for Americans already there to depart promptly.
"Private American citizens currently in (Israel and the Palestinian territories, Kuwait and Syria) are strongly urged to depart immediately," the department said.
"Americans in (the three countries) should exercise caution and take prudent measures to maintain their security," it said, urging US citizens to be "vigilantly aware" of their surroundings, avoid crowds, keep a low profile and vary times and routes of their travel. (Albawaba.com)