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Governments Urge Their Citizens to Evacuate Iraq - 2003-03-17

As the threat of war looms over Iraq, governments around the world are advising their citizens to evacuate some countries in the region, as quickly as possible.

The United States and Britain have urged their citizens to leave Kuwait immediately, citing the risk of possible chemical or biological attack by Iraq or terrorists within the country.

Britain is reducing its diplomatic presence in Kuwait, saying it is closing the consular and visa sections as of Tuesday. A spokesman from the British embassy told Associated Press that embassy officials are talking to British Airways about extra flights out of Kuwait and also planning to charter flights to help evacuate British and other commonwealth citizens from the country. U.S. officials indicate they are considering similar plans.

In addition to urging Americans to leave Kuwait, the United States has also ordered non-essential diplomatic staff and government dependents to leave Syria, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank and advised Americans in these places to leave.

Britain joined the United States in warning its citizens in the United Arab Emirates of an increased risk of terror attacks. The United States said Sunday it had received indications of a possible terrorist attack against nightclubs in Dubai, capital of the Emirates.

Other countries have also begun evacuating their citizens from Iraq. China's official Xinhua news agency says its ambassador to Iraq, other diplomatic staff, and journalists are being evacuated. Germany has closed its embassy in Baghdad and advised its citizens to leave. Russia too has issued a similar warning, and Greece said it will close its embassy in Iraq in the next couple of days.

U.N. observers have also halted all operations along the Iraqi-Kuwait border.

Meanwhile, Iraqi citizens are bracing themselves for war. Store owners in Baghdad are moving their merchandise to warehouses to prevent it from being damaged in bomb attacks as well as to keep it away from looters. Residents of the city are stocking up on food and many of them have taped their windows to guard against flying glass.

In northern Iraq, residents of Chamchamal, located near where Iraqi forces are stationed, are rushing out of the city and heading into the Kurdish-controlled region protected by U.S. and British air patrols.

Sunday, United States, Britain and Spain met in an emergency summit in the Azores, and announced the diplomatic effort to win support for disarming Iraq would end.