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US Embassy in Sri Lanka to Reopen - 2004-08-13


The U.S. Embassy in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo is to reopen Monday after it was shut for security reasons. The closure came after an envelope containing a white powder was found, raising fears of a possible anthrax attack.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Long, says he does not know why someone sent an envelope containing white powder to the embassy, but it was found not to be dangerous. "We're just going to be reopening on Monday, following the fact that we had tests carried out on a substance found in an envelope, and those tests have shown the substance to be non-toxic," he says.

Mr. Long says he expects the incident will be investigated, but he could not say whether Sri Lankan or U.S. authorities would conduct it.

Diplomats sent staffers home, and closed the embassy and a nearby aid office early on Tuesday, after the envelope containing white powder was discovered. The find prompted fears it contained anthrax spores, which could cause the deadly disease.

Five people died in the United States in 2001, after anthrax spores were sent to a handful of government and media offices. The case remains unsolved.

The embassy closure in Sri Lanka came less than a week after the U.S. Embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi, was closed for a day because of security concerns. Officials did not provide details about that threat.

Local media reported it was linked to a series of arrests of more than two dozen al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan and in Britain. The arrests and information gathered from the suspects prompted higher security alerts in many cities around the world.