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War threat sparks exodus

U.N. guards enter Kuwait City having pulled back from the Iraqi border.
U.N. guards enter Kuwait City having pulled back from the Iraqi border.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Countries still with a presence in Iraq are warning their nationals to leave the country as war looms ever nearer.

Travel warnings and advisories are also being issued for those in surrounding countries.

The British government Monday warned its citizens to "urgently" leave Kuwait because of a high threat of terrorist attacks. It follows a warning from the German government to its nationals to leave Iraq.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday ordered all non-essential consular personnel and dependents to leave Kuwait, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to these areas.

China began evacuating its Iraqi embassy in Baghdad on Monday, according to Chinese state-run media reports.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Weiqiu, six embassy officials and six journalists are leaving, media reports said.

The last of the U.N. monitors, who patrolled the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, have arrived in Kuwait City from the demilitarized zone between Kuwait and Iraq.

The UK Foreign Office Web site cited the threat of terrorist attack for its nationals to leave Kuwait.

"If you are already in Kuwait, you should leave urgently while commercial flights remain available."

"The threat to British individuals and organisations from terrorism is now high. It will rise further in the event of hostilities with Iraq."

Britain is reducing its embassy staff in Kuwait, and has already ordered their dependents out of the country, according to the statement.

The German Foreign Ministry is urging the estimated 40 Germans still in Iraq to leave. (Germans to leave Iraq)

A ministry spokesman said Sunday that German embassy staff in Baghdad would help make arrangements for any Germans who wish to leave.

The German charges d'affaires is expected to leave Iraq for Amman, Jordan, and close the embassy within the next three days, the spokesman said.

A foreign ministry statement said: "Germans in Iraq are being called to leave the country immediately."

And the Russian Foreign Ministry urged its citizens to leave Iraq and not travel to the country. Russia, which has already withdrawn dependents of employees working in Iraq, warned its people of an "exacerbated situation around Iraq."

Americans and Australians have also been warned against traveling in the region.

The U.S. warned its citizens in the relatively liberal Gulf nation United Arab Emirates (UAE) to avoid large crowds and nightspots popular with Westerners and to exercise caution when traveling within the country.(Americans warned)

The decision "is a result of an overall assessment of the security situation in the region due to the threat of military action in Iraq," the State Department said in three separate travel warnings issued simultaneously Sunday.

Private American citizens in Syria, Kuwait, Israel and the Palestinian territories "are strongly urged to depart immediately," because of growing tensions, the warnings added. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also advised Americans to leave Iraq.

"In the event of military action in Iraq, there is a risk that Iraq or terrorist organizations may use chemical and/or biological materials which could affect the region," the State Department said.

The spate of travel warnings came as U.S. President George W. Bush warned "Monday [represents] the moment of truth for the world." ('Moment of truth')

The warnings also noted military action in Iraq could cause disruptions in commercial flights, which would make departure from those areas more difficult.

Some U.S. consular personnel remain in Kuwait, Syria, Israel and the territories to provide emergency services to American citizens, the State Department said.

In another further worrying sign that war could be imminent, the U.N.'s observer mission along the Iraq-Kuwait border has ceased operations and is pulling its staff out of the area. (U.N. halts Iraqi border mission)


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