Saturday, June 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Missions to send staff home

Alarmed by escalating Indo-Pak tensions, the USA, Britain, Australia and New Zealand today decided to reduce the levels of non-essential diplomatic staff and their families in India and advised their nationals against travelling to the region. Describing the tensions as having reached “serious levels,” a State Department spokesman in Washington appealed to about 60,000 Americans to leave the country because of the rising danger of an Indo-Pak conflict.

The warning referred to artillery exchanges between Indian and Pakistani troops along the border and also the possibility of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda network against Americans, the advisory, which was also issued by its embassy in New Delhi, said.

Dependents of non-essential U S personnel in the Embassy here and US Consulates in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai were also encouraged to depart at government expense, it said A statement issued by the British High Commission said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has advised British nationals for the time being against travel to India. “British nationals there should consider leaving,” it said.

The statement quoting Straw said Britain would “offer dependents of its government staff and less-essential staff themselves the chance to return home if they chose”. It further said the visa service would operate at a reduced level.

CANBERRA: Australia said on Friday it would begin withdrawing some non-essential staff from its High Commission in Pakistan because of the danger of war with India. Australia has already strongly advised its citizens to leave Pakistan and given non-essential staff and dependents of diplomats in Islamabad the choice of leaving.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said, staff would be moved wherever possible from both countries.

“There are moves to move out non-essential staff from those posts. There won’t be many, most of the staff in those places are essential, but there may be some staff coming out of those posts over the next few days.’’

“Our advice is consistent with what New Zealand, Canada and the USA are doing in that country,’’ he added. Agencies

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