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US Withdraws Citizens From CAR - 2002-10-31

The United States has decided to withdraw its diplomats from the Central African Republic and close its embassy in the capital, Bangui, amid continued violence stemming from the military rebellion that erupted there late last week.

The decision to withdraw diplomats and suspend operations at the embassy followed dispatch of a U.S. military team to the country earlier this week to assess the security situation.

A travel advisory issued here warned U.S. citizens against travel to the Central African Republic, and urged private Americans already there to leave the country as the security situation permits.

The statement described the situation in Bangui as "fluid and uncertain," and said the fighting between government troops and rebels has been accompanied by reports of looting and intrusions into private homes.

Thursday's U.S. move came as press accounts from Bangui were reporting calm in the capital, after government forces drove rebels out of the northern parts of the city. But State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, prospects for a full peace are unclear.

"I think, we still consider the situation somewhat uncertain," he said. "It's not clear how the rebels will react to the latest developments, or what's going to happen next, and, therefore, it may be prudent to move Americans out."

Officials here said the U.S. diplomatic presence in Bangui is small, with fewer than 10 officials assigned to the embassy.

They said a few hundred private Americans are normally in the country at any given time, but that many may have left since the military revolt began last Friday.