INTRODUCTION United Nations weapons inspectors have begun pulling out of Baghdad. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has ordered all international UN staff in Iraq to evacuate as the United States prepares for military action. Some foreign reporters also began leaving, and a number of countries have announced the closure of their embassies in Iraq. Brian Purchia has more.

NARRATOR United Nations weapons inspectors; people with the media, foreign diplomats, and thousands of other non-essential people are pulling out of the Middle East.

ENGLISH RADIO ANNOUNCER "Late Sunday the United States ordered home all non-essential diplomats and their families to leave Israel, Kuwait and Syria over concerns of what could take place in the region."

NARRATOR A plane carrying arms inspectors left Baghdad airport Tuesday morning. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered them out of Iraq Monday as the United States prepares for military action.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N SECRETARY GENERAL "I have just informed the Council that we will withdraw the UNMOVIC and atomic energy agency inspectors, we will withdraw the UN humanitarian workers, we will withdraw the UNIKOM troops on the Iraq-Kuwaiti border.?

NARRATOR Iraq criticized Mr. Annan's order, saying he has bowed to U.S. pressure. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.

NAJI SABRI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER "The UN Secretary General has abandoned all responsibility in maintaining peace and security in the world. This is a quite unfortunate, unfortunate, decision."

NARRATOR Meanwhile, a number of countries have closed their embassies in Iraq. This official from the Germany embassy did not want to leave.

GERMAN EMBASSY STAFF MEMBER "You know so many people here, you feel very, very bad when you leave now. You feel like you are betraying them, leaving them alone."

NARRATOR The United States and Britain have advised their citizens to leave Kuwait, Syria, Israel the West Bank and Gaza strip.

US CITIZEN ?I'm sending the family, my wife, and two children.?

NARRATOR This software engineer plans on following his family to the States as he can.

As a war in Iraq looms, in the northern part of the country Iraqi Kurds have begun to flee, fearing that Saddam Hussein may launch some form of chemical attack on the region.

VOA-TV, Washington