US Embassy Cancels July 4th Reception after Terrorist Threats

Published June 29th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The US embassy in Jordan has decided to cancel a reception at the ambassador's residence to mark the July 4th national day over security threats, a US embassy statement and officials said on Thursday. 

"The US embassy regrets to announce the cancellation of its reception in celebration of the 224th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America which was scheduled for July 4," the statement said. 

It did not provide a reason but embassy spokeswoman Dana Shell Smith told AFP the decision was "part of an ongoing review of the situation at the embassy in light of a warden statement issued June 21". 

That statement carried a warning to US citizens to take extra precautions in Jordan amid a reported threat against the embassy, a fortified compound which also includes the ambassador's residence, in western Amman. 

Shell, who read the latest statement to AFP over the telephone, reiterated however that the United States "has full confidence in the government of Jordan and its ability" to fend off any threat against the embassy. 

She also stressed that it was "business as usual at the embassy which is open for business during normal working hours" from Sunday to Thursday. 

A warning posted on the embassy's website on June 21 said: "The United States government has information concerning terrorist targeting of the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan." 

The warning said Washington did not know the full dimensions of the threat but nevertheless it urged US citizens in the kingdom "to "exercise prudence .... review their security practices and remain alert to changing situations." 

"American citizens should avoid large crowds and gatherings, keep a low profile and vary routes and times of all required travel," it said. 

"We cannot rule out the possibility that terrorists may also plan to target other venues in Jordan," the announcement said. 

The Jordanian government tried to temper the sense of alarm and Jordanian Information Minister Taleb Rifai told AFP last week that the US concerns were exaggerated. 

But the US State Department later said that the threat aimed at the US embassy in Jordan was more serious than one that surfaced last year which had not specifically mentioned the US diplomatic mission. 

"(The) language is new in a sense that it wasn't used before," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said on June 22, refusing however to discuss the specifics of the threat. 

A diplomat in Amman said suspicions surrounded Osama Bin Laden, the billionaire Saudi dissident wanted by Washington in connection with bombings of US embassies in east Africa in 1998 that killed more than 200 people. 

Bin Laden, believed to be living in Afghanistan, allegedly led a group of Jordan-based militants who were caught by the authorities in December and are among 28 Muslim activists standing trial on charges of conspiracy to carry anti-Western attacks in the kingdom during New Year's celebrations -- AMMAN (AFP)  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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