In an unusual move, the United States is advising expatriate citizens around the world to be prepared for possible emergency evacuations from their countries of residence because of conflict, terrorist attacks, or other unforeseen circumstances.
The cable to U.S. embassies and consulates abroad comes amid a U-S military buildup in the Gulf, and officials here would not deny that at least one of the reasons for its issuance was the possibility of a war with Iraq.
The State Department is instructing the 260 diplomatic posts world-wide to issue so-called "warden messages" to local American communities, reminding U.S. citizens of steps they should take to be prepared for emergencies including possible evacuations.
These include keeping passports, travel, and personal documents up-to-date, and having emergency supplies of prescription drugs and food on hand.
The State Department routinely issues travel warnings for specific countries where terrorist attacks, political upheaval or natural disasters have occurred. But officials here acknowledge that a world-wide cautionary message is unusual, though not unprecedented.
A "warden message" issued in accordance with Friday's instructions by the U.S. embassy in Mexico City was made available to reporters here.
The embassy said it did not want U.S. citizens to become "unduly alarmed." However it said that given the potential for acts of violence, terrorism or anti-American demonstrations, it is important to be ready for all possibilities in case of an emergency.
The State Department noted in its cable to overseas posts that in the past year, U.S. diplomats assisted expatriate Americans in leaving several countries hit by political unrest or terrorism including the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Venezuela and Israel.