- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department on Tuesday ordered all nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar and the families of all American personnel there to leave the country due to the uncertain security situation after the ouster of the Indian Ocean island’s president.

In a travel warning, the department said it had taken the step because of unrest related to the resignation of Madagascar’s president and his hand-over to the military of his command.

“While American citizens have not been targeted to date, the Department of State has ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo due to the ongoing unrest and security concerns,” it said.

Earlier Tuesday, Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana ceded power after weeks of turmoil on the island as his opposition rival took control of a presidential palace and paraded through the capital surrounded by armed soldiers and an adoring crowd.

On Monday, the Peace Corps announced it had suspended its programs in Madagascar and was evacuating its 112 volunteers who had been working there.

The State Department move makes compulsory a decision made last week to allow nonessential U.S. Embassy personnel and families to leave Madagascar voluntarily at government expense.

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