The United States Friday suspended operations at its embassy in Libya after U.S. diplomatic personnel were airlifted out of the country. However, officials say diplomatic contacts with representatives of the Moammar Gadhafi government continue.
Officials here announced the embassy closure shortly after receiving confirmation that remaining U.S. diplomats were safely aboard a chartered airliner that left a military airfield near Tripoli Friday morning.
But they stress that the move does not amount to a break in diplomatic relations with Libya, and that contacts continue with government officials including Foreign Minister Musa Kusa with the hope of influencing Libyan behavior.
Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy told reporters the decision to suspend operations at the Tripoli post was made Thursday, amid increasing gunfire in the city and that the last 19 U.S. diplomats were told to join the evacuation flight.
"We will execute, always, due prudence when we engage in diplomatic activities," said Kennedy. "We're there to represent the United States. We're there to advance our economic interests. We're there to assist and protect American citizens. But when the situation becomes significantly insecure, it is at that point prudent to continue our diplomatic activities with a country via other means."
A senior official who spoke to reporters said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who is consulting with U.S. allies in Europe, spoke by telephone Friday with Libyan Foreign Minister Kusa, and that contacts will continue as a means of persuading authorities to stop the violence.
View the timeline of U.S.-Libya relations