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Middle East and North Africa Public Announcement

Issued by US Department of State

Mar 20, 2003

This Public Announcement is being updated to alert Americans to an increased potential for anti-American violence, including terrorist actions against U.S. citizens, as a result of the military action in Iraq. This supersedes the Public Announcement of November 20, 2002 and expires on July 20, 2003.

The Department of State reminds Americans traveling to or residing in the Middle East and North Africa (including the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf region) to exercise caution. Tensions generated by the current crisis in Iraq have increased the potential threat to U.S. citizens and interests abroad posed by those harboring anti-American sentiments. Public demonstrations throughout the Middle Eastern region now carry a greater potential for precipitating violence directed at American citizens, symbols, or interests.

The threat to U.S. citizens in the Middle East includes the risk of attacks by terrorist groups, including to those with links to Al-Qaeda. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings or kidnappings. While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents must be considered a possible threat. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, outdoor recreation events, resorts and beaches.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. Facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services for security reasons. On occasion, the travel of official personnel at embassies and consulates around the world is restricted because of security concerns, and these posts may recommend that private American citizens avoid the same areas if at all possible. Services to American citizens may be affected if employees' movements are restricted. If this happens, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to American citizens. In case office hours are reduced, American citizens in need of emergency assistance should telephone the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before visiting in person.

In countries where the security of U.S. citizens is considered at particularly high risk, the Department of State may authorize non-emergency Embassy personnel and/or their dependents to voluntarily depart the country or may, if security conditions warrant, order the departure of some or all Embassy personnel. The Department of State will inform the U.S. public when decisions of this nature are made.

In addition, U.S. citizens planning to travel to the Middle East or North Africa should consult the Department of State's Public Announcements, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, Fact Sheets, and regional travel brochures on the Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. Up-to-date information on security conditions can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 in the U.S. and for callers outside the U.S. and Canada a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328.

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