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U.S. embassies authorized to close; several in Mideast close
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the State Department gave U.S. embassies worldwide permission to shut down and urged them to take all necessary security precautions.
Several U.S. embassies in the Middle East decided to close indefinitely. The American Embassy in Japan opted not to open Wednesday.
Secretary of State Colin Powell cut short a visit to Peru and was returning Tuesday to Washington. He was in Lima for an Organization of American States conference on democracy.
Powell canceled a visit to Colombia planned for Tuesday.
In Italy, the U.S. Embassy warned American tourists to be vigilant and take appropriate action to increase security and reduce their vulnerability.
It was late Tuesday in the Middle East when the attacks occurred. In Cairo, Egypt, the U.S. Embassy decided to suspend nonessential operations at government facilities in Cairo and Alexandria on Wednesday, according to a message posted on the embassy Web site.
The embassy strongly recommended that Americans in Egypt keep travel to a minimum and avoid public places and large gatherings.
Embassies in Yemen, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates announced that as of Wednesday, they were closing indefinitely. The embassy in Qatar was undecided. The embassy in Saudi Arabia will remain open.
The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait was closing as a sign of mourning for the fatalities of Tuesday's terror attacks, Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported.
In Zagreb, Croatia, the embassy said it was closing Wednesday "out of respect for the victims of the tragic terrorist incidents."
The ambassador, Lawrence Rossin, said on Croatian state-run television, "I can assure you that people who did this can never sleep and have a safe night in their beds."
The U.S. Embassy in Sweden closed early Tuesday and was to remain closed to the public Wednesday. The downtown building and the ambassador's residence were cordoned off by Swedish riot police.
In Oslo, Norwegians left bouquets of flowers in a park near the U.S. Embassy.
NATO and European Union institutions also took special security measures, including partial evacuations.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington closed for two to three hours after first evacuating nonessential staff.
Spokesman Marc Regev said Israel has offered the U.S. government any technical help it needs from the Israeli Army, because "unfortunately, we have people with practical experience in pulling people out of bombed buildings."
On the Net: State Department's U.S. embassy links: http://usembassy.state.gov/