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US Authorizes Embassy Personnel to Leave Jordan - 2002-11-22

The United States has authorized the departure from Jordan of non-essential U.S. embassy personnel and diplomatic dependents. The move follows the killing a month ago of a senior embassy staff member in an attack still under investigation by U.S. and Jordanian officials.

The decision essentially gives non-emergency embassy workers and family members of all U.S. diplomatic personnel the option of leaving Jordan with a free plane ticket home.

The State Department said the so-called "authorized departure" reflects a reassessment of the security situation for official Americans in Jordan following the killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley and other recent developments in the region.

At a briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker noted that the move falls short of a mandatory evacuation of U.S. personnel, and that no closure or reduction of service at the U.S. embassy in Amman are anticipated.

He also said it does not reflect dissatisfaction in Washington with Jordan's investigation of the murder of Mr. Foley, a senior official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who was shot to death as he left his home in Amman for work on October 28.

"Jordanian security forces have been making extraordinary efforts, and we've been working closely with them, to investigate that killing and also to provide protection for Americans in Jordan," Mr. Reeker said. "We're very confident of those efforts, that they will ultimately be successful and bring to justice the murderer or the murderers of Mr. Foley. But I don't any more information on that on-going investigation at this point."

The relationship with Jordan is one of the United States' most important in the Middle East and so the decision to reduce the U.S. presence there is politically sensitive.

Spokesman Reeker said Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Jordan's King Abdullah Friday from Russia to explain the reasoning behind it, and that the Jordanian leader expressed "understanding."

The authorized departure in Jordan follows a flurry of State Department security warnings to U.S. citizens abroad, especially in the Middle East, where on Thursday an American missionary nurse was shot to death in Lebanon and two U.S. soldiers were shot and seriously wounded in Kuwait.

A world-wide cautionary statement issued Wednesday spoke of an "increased risk" of terrorist attacks from groups with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization, citing threats to U.S. interests made in the audiotape attributed to the terrorist leader that surfaced last week.