- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Foreign diplomats in Iraq have begun leaving the country, and the United States has urged its citizens in other Persian Gulf states to consider departing amid a war looming in the region.
The State Department issued travel warnings for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia late last week, cautioning about "increased security concerns" and authorizing "the departure of family members and non-emergency personnel" at the U.S. embassies "on a voluntary basis."
"Private American citizens … should evaluate rigorously their own security situations and are strongly urged to consider departing," the department said.
The two main American schools in Kuwait said yesterday that they will suspend classes starting Monday through March 22. The American School of Kuwait and the American International School educate about 270 American children and about 2,000 foreign students.
"There is a lot of tension, and we can't live with tension," said Wael Abdul Ghafour, owner of the American School of Kuwait.
Ron Hawley, personnel administrator for the American International School, said the prospect of war and recent statements by Iraq that it might attack Kuwait "make American teachers nervous."
Although the schools are not affiliated with the U.S. Embassy, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We do consult regularly with the American School in Kuwait, as a member of the American community."
Meanwhile, the Polish diplomat who acts as Washington's only representative in Baghdad, Krzysztof Bernacki, will leave tomorrow "for long consultations in his country," the Polish Embassy said yesterday.
The Foreign Ministry in Warsaw later said it also had recalled its ambassador to Baghdad, Andrzej Biera, but it did not indicate for how long.
"The complicated situation requires direct talk with the head of the station to decide on the margin for maneuver in the near future," said Boguslaw Majewski, a ministry spokesman.
The State Department expressed appreciation of the efforts the Poles "have been making and continue to make on behalf of the United States under the difficult circumstances in Baghdad."
According to diplomatic sources in the region, representatives of several other countries, including Spain and Yugoslavia, have already left Baghdad. Some foreign embassies have shut down partially or completely, and other missions are contemplating evacuation in the next couple of weeks.
"There have been general discussions about evacuation in the diplomatic community, but the decisions are individual ones by individual embassies," Manzar Shafiq, the Pakistani ambassador to Iraq, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press late last month.
Representatives of several Western businesses, including oil companies British Petroleum PLC, Texaco Inc. and Chevron Corp., also were said to be discussing sending their staffs home.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is scheduled to present to the U.N. Security Council tomorrow information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said yesterday that there will be "no smoking gun."
"The U.S. seeks Iraq's peaceful disarmament," Mr. Powell wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. "But we will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."
U.S. officials sought to lower expectations before the secretary's presentation, even though Mr. Boucher said it "will be compelling." Asked whether the evidence would be surprising to the other members of the council, he replied: "Generally, no."
Mr. Boucher also said Mr. Powell was planning to meet with officials from most other council member countries today and tomorrow.
The secretary met yesterday with the king of Bahrain, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who later called on President Bush. Bahrain, which provides a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, was the target of long-range Scud missiles fired by Iraq in the 1991 Gulf war.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, is expected to try to persuade French President Jacques Chirac during a summit today to ease his strong opposition to military action against Iraq.
In Turkey yesterday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said he would ask the parliament this week to allow foreign troops in his country, a motion that could open the way for basing U.S. troops there for war in neighboring Iraq.
The announcement followed a decision Friday by Turkey's top generals, the president and government leaders, including Mr. Gul, to endorse stationing foreign troops in the country. Parliament must approve any deployment.
"We will apply to parliament within the week," Mr. Gul said after briefing opposition leader Deniz Baykal about Iraq. "I still think there's a chance for peace … but Turkey has to take steps to protect its national interests."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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