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Saturday, February 21, 1998 Published at 19:01 GMT

World: Middle East

US advises Americans to leave Iraq
image: [ US citizens, including journalists, have been advised to leave Iraq ]
US citizens, including journalists, have been advised to leave Iraq

The United States has advised its citizens in Iraq to leave the country as soon as possible. It also strongly urged Americans to avoid all travel to Iraq.

The warning said conditions inside Iraq were unsettled and dangerous and the US had only a limited ability to provide consular services to its citizens detained there.

The US State Department said it could not say how many US citizens remain in Iraq.

Apart from UN personnel and journalists, the number would probably be very small - there is no US embassy in Baghdad and severe restrictions are in place on financial dealings with Iraq.

In a memorandum, the Pentagon said journalists in Iraq may also be at risk.

"You should be aware that there is substantial risk involved in sending people to Iraq during a period that could be highly dangerous," the memorandum informed newspaper editors.

A statement from the State Department said diplomatic options to resolve the crisis had not been exhausted but the Iraqi government continued to indicate its unwillingness to comply with UN resolutions.

Washington has declined to say at what point it will conclude that diplomacy has failed, but is not expected to act until the UN Sectretary general, Kofi Annan, reports to the UN Security Council on his talks with Iraqi officials.

Mr Annan, who is holding talks in Baghdad to avert the military conflict, said he remained optimistic in seeking a diplomatic solution to the confrontation over Iraqi restrictions on UN weapons inspections.

On Friday the United States authorised the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency staff from its diplomatic missions in Kuwait and Israel.

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