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Two US diplomats have been expelled from Moscow, after the White House said it had ordered two Russian embassy staff to leave Washington.

On July 8, the US State Department said their move came after a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

That US diplomat has now been expelled from Moscow, along with one other embassy worker.


The Kremlin accused the men of being CIA agents.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said both US embassy staff were expelled for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status”.

State department spokesman John Kirby said the two Russian officials, who have not been named, were told to leave on June 17.

John Kirby said that earlier that month, a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.

“The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee,” he said.

“The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue.”

Russia said earlier this week that the US official was a CIA agent who had refused to provide his identification papers and hit the policeman in the face.

In June, US officials said harassment against US diplomats by Russian security and intelligence services was on the rise.

According to the Washington Post, that included breaking into the homes of embassy staff, rearranging furniture and even killing a family pet.

Russia has denied the allegation that security staff mistreated the US diplomat. It said the diplomat worked for the CIA and had refused to show ID papers.

Russian media have also released a footage showing what they say was the scuffle between the US diplomat and the Russian policeman.

In response to seeing its two diplomats ordered to leave Washington, the Kremlin announced its move on July 9.

“After their unfriendly step two employees of the United States embassy had to leave Moscow,” Sergei Ryabkov said.

“They were declared persona non grata for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.”

No official response has been made by Russia to the allegations of harassment of US diplomats. A statement to the Washington Post said there had been US provocation against Russian diplomats.

The staff of the US embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli has been temporarily evacuated over security concerns.

The US embassy staff, including marine guards providing security to the embassy, have been transferred to Tunisia “due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias”.

Secretary of State John Kerry said there was a “real risk” to staff.

It comes amid fierce clashes between rival militias in the capital, with intense fighting at Tripoli airport.

Libya has been gripped by instability since the 2011 uprising, with swathes of Libya controlled by militias.

The staff of the US embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli has been temporarily evacuated over security concerns

The staff of the US embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli has been temporarily evacuated over security concerns (photo AP)

The US embassy in Tripoli was already operating on limited staffing. All remaining personnel were driven overland to Tunisia in the early hours of Saturday.

The US military said it had “assisted in the relocation” of embassy staff, using F-16 and MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

It said the five-hour operation was “conducted without incident”.

State department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the withdrawal “underscored the Obama administration’s concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad”.

Marie Harf said that fighting between rival armed groups was taking place “in very close proximity” to the US embassy in the capital.

The state department has also urged US nationals not to go to Libya.

It is the second time in more than three years that the US has closed its embassy in Libya.

Turkey has also withdrawn some 700 members of staff from Libya, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Earlier this week, the UN also announced it was withdrawing all its staff from Libya.

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Yemen announces it has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country’s main ports.

Security remains tight – and hundreds of armored vehicles have been deployed to protect key targets.

Both the US and UK have withdrawn diplomatic staff from Yemen, prompted by intelligence reports of renewed terrorist activity.

The US is reported to be preparing special operations forces for possible strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen.

It appears that Yemen was at the centre of a complex and audacious plot which – had it succeeded – would have given al-Qaeda control over a crucial aspect of the country’s infrastructure.

Yemeni government spokesman Rajeh Badi said the plot involved blowing up oil pipelines and taking control of certain cities – including two ports in the south, one of which accounts for the bulk of Yemen’s oil exports and is where a number of foreign workers are employed.

“There were attempts to control key cities in Yemen like Mukala and Bawzeer,” said Rajeh Badi.

“This would be co-ordinated with attacks by al-Qaeda members on the gas facilities in Shebwa city and the blowing up of the gas pipe in Belhaf city.”

Yemen has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country's main ports

Yemen has foiled an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil pipelines and seize some of the country’s main ports

Al-Qaeda members dressed as soldiers were to be outside the ports, he said. On a given signal they were to invade the facility and take it over.

Yemeni officials quoted by AP news agency said they believed the motive for the planned attacks was retaliation for the killing of senior al-Qaeda figure Said al-Shihri, who was critically wounded in a November drone strike and later died of his injuries.

Tanks and troops have surrounded foreign missions, government offices and the airport, and senior officials are being advised to limit their movements.

Both the US, which closed 20 embassies worldwide on Sunday, and the UK have withdrawn diplomatic staff from Yemen and urged their citizens to leave.

The US embassy and consulate closures reportedly followed intercepted conversations between two senior al-Qaeda figures, including top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggesting terrorist attacks.

According to the New York Times, the US intercepted communications between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the group’s head in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi.

The paper said the conversation represented one of the most serious plots since the 9/11 attacks.

The Yemeni government spokesman said the international community “feared the reaction of al-Qaeda” and added: “We understand such fears.”

But the foreign ministry has criticized the embassy withdrawals, saying “the evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists.”

Although the US has previously sent special forces to train counter-terrorist units, there are now suggestions that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), may be preparing units for strike operations, the sources said.

JSOC co-operates closely with the CIA, which has mounted four drone strikes in Yemen over the past 10 days.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and both the White House and the US state department have said the current threat comes from AQAP but have refused to divulge further details.

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Bolivian President Evo Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia after his official plane was banned from European airspace.

The warning came as four other South American leaders offered him support at a special summit on Thursday.

Evo Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria on Tuesday after France, Portugal, Italy and Spain apparently barred it from flying through their airspace.

There were unfounded suspicions that US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.

The Bolivian president blamed Washington for pressurizing European countries into refusing him passage.

“My hand would not tremble to close the US embassy,” President Evo Morales said.

“We have dignity, sovereignty. Without America, we are better off politically and democratically.”

His presidential jet was rerouted as he travelled from a meeting in Russia where he had suggested he would be willing to consider an asylum application from Edward Snowden.

Former CIA contractor Edward Snowden is believed to be holed up at the transit area of Moscow airport after leaking details of a vast US surveillance programme.

Evo Morales was joined by the presidents of Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Suriname at a meeting to discuss the plane dispute in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba on Thursday.

The leaders issued a statement after the meeting demanding an explanation from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain over their actions.

President Evo Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia after his official plane was banned from European airspace

President Evo Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia after his official plane was banned from European airspace

The US was not mentioned in the statement, but several of the leaders criticized the Americans in comments after the meeting.

“If this had happened to the president of the United States, it probably would have been grounds for war,” said Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

“They think they can attack, crush, destroy international law.”

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in a TV interview on Friday that Madrid had “no reason to apologize”.

He said airspace was never closed to Evo Morales’ plane, but that the delay in Austria meant the flight permit had expired and had to be renewed.

Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo also said in reference to Edward Snowden: “They told us he was inside [the plane].”

His comment is the first official recognition by the European states that the incident with Evo Morales’ plane was connected with the Snowden affair.

However, he did not say who had given the information to the Spanish authorities.

France earlier apologized for the plane incident, blaming it on “conflicting information”.

The US state department has not commented directly on the latest claims, saying only that Washington had “been in touch with a broad range of countries” over the Snowden case.

Demonstrators marched on the French embassy in La Paz on Wednesday, burning the French flag and demanding the expulsion of the ambassador to Bolivia.

Evo Morales’ plane took off from Vienna on Wednesday morning and arrived back in La Paz on Wednesday night.

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The US has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic (CAR) as rebels threaten to advance towards the capital, Bangui.

The state department said it had not broken off diplomatic ties with the government but warned US citizens not to travel to CAR during the unrest.

Earlier, CAR President Francois Bozize appealed to the US and France to help block the rebel advance.

The UN has said it is evacuating its non-essential staff from the country.

US state department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the embassy had suspended operations and that the ambassador and other staff had left the country on Thursday.

“This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR,” he said in a statement.

Residents are stockpiling food amid fears that the rebels – known as the Seleka coalition – could launch an assault in the next few days.

On Sunday, the rebels captured the northern city of Bambari, the third largest in the country, having earlier seized the rich diamond mining area around Bria.

On Wednesday, protesters in Bangui attacked the embassy of former colonial power France, accusing Paris of abandoning them.

The US has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as rebels threaten to advance towards capital Bangui

The US has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as rebels threaten to advance towards capital Bangui

France has about 200 soldiers based in CAR and stepped up security at its embassy after the attack.

President Francois Bozize apologized for the incident and appealed for “our French cousins” and the US “to help us to push back the rebels”.

However, French President Francois Hollande said Paris would not intervene in its former colony.

“If we have a presence, it’s not to protect a regime, it’s to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic,” he said.

“Those days are over.”

Seleka, which is made up of breakaway factions from three former armed groups, accuses Francois Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal, under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.

The rebels have pledged to depose Francois Bozize unless he negotiates with them.

They began their campaign a month ago and have taken several towns in their push towards the capital.

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Yemeni protesters angered by an anti-Islam film made in the US have stormed the grounds of the US embassy in the country’s capital Sanaa.

Police shot in the air in an attempt to hold back the crowds, but failed to prevent them gaining access to the compound and setting fire to vehicles.

A number of people were reported to have been injured.

On Tuesday, the US ambassador to Libya was killed in a fire started after the US consulate in Benghazi was stormed.

Security force reinforcements in Sanaa used tear gas, water cannon and live fire to drive back protesters.

They have now regained control of the Sanaa compound, but protests are continuing outside.

US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa has been stormed by protesters angered by anti-Islam film

US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa has been stormed by protesters angered by anti-Islam film

Earlier on Thursday, US officials said they were investigating whether the attack in Libya was planned, citing suspicions that a militant jihadist group may have co-ordinated the violence.

Three other US consul staff and several Libyans died in that attack, along with Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who is believed to have died from smoke inhalation.

There have also been clashes in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

On Wednesday, demonstrators in Cairo angry at the film – Innocence of Muslims – breached the walls of the US embassy and tore down the flag. Clashes continued in the early hours of Thursday morning.

President Mohammed Mursi has appealed for calm, saying Egyptians “reject any kind of assault or insult” against the Prophet Muhammad.

“I condemn and oppose all who… insult our prophet. [But] it is our duty to protect our guests and visitors from abroad,” he said in a statement broadcast by state media.

“I call on everyone to take that into consideration, to not violate Egyptian law… to not assault embassies.”

Security has been increased at US embassies and consulates around the world in response to the rising tensions.

US President Barack Obama has vowed to work with the Libyan authorities to bring those behind the Benghazi attack to justice.

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Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says he has been unable to meet US officials to discuss his desire to leave the country.

The blind dissident, in hospital in Beijing, says he believes Chinese officials were preventing US envoys from visiting him on Thursday.

After he escaped house arrest last week, Chen Guangcheng spent six days in the US embassy before emerging on Wednesday.

The issue continues to overshadow key talks between the US and China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Beijing to attend talks focusing on North Korea and Syria.

As the talks opened, Hillary Clinton did not mention Chen Guangcheng by name but addressed the topic of human rights.

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says he has been unable to meet US officials to discuss his desire to leave the country

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says he has been unable to meet US officials to discuss his desire to leave the country

Earlier, the US ambassador to China, Gary Locke, rejected the suggestion that Chen Guangcheng had been pressured into leaving the US embassy.

“I can tell you unequivocally that he was never pressured to leave. He was excited and eager about leaving,” he said.

However, Chen Guangcheng says since he left he has been made aware of threats made to his wife and family while he was in the embassy.

“She told me our house has been installed with seven CCTV cameras inside the courtyard. There are people in and outside of our house and on the roof…They just eat and stay in our house, and they plan to build up electric wires around my house,” he said.

Although he initially said he wanted to stay in China, Chen Guangcheng changed his mind because he believes China has reneged on an agreement to guarantee his safety.

There is no official confirmation about the nature of any such agreement, but media reports from the US suggest that Chen Guangcheng had been promised safety in a university town elsewhere in China.

Chen Guangcheng also said that US officials had been to the hospital where he is currently receiving treatment, but he had not seen them. He believes Chinese foreign ministry officials are not letting them in.

“Yesterday afternoon I thought they [US officials ] left. I looked for them, but couldn’t find them…Today I got to know that they were prevented from coming in, not that they are not coming in,” he said.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said he had “no information” on Chen Guangcheng’s request to leave China.

Both Hillary Clinton and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are attending the annual two-day talks, which had been expected to focus on North Korea and Syria.

Hillary Clinton has previously expressed her support for Chen Guangcheng, who has been held under house arrest for almost two years.

As the talks opened, she addressed the topic of human rights.

“The United States believes that no state can legitimately deny the universal rights that belong to every human being – or punish those who exercise them,” the top US diplomat said.

President Hu Jintao, also speaking at the start of the talks, said it was not possible for China and the US to see “eye to eye on every issue”.

Chinese officials on Wednesday accused the US of interference in their domestic affairs and demanded an apology for housing Chen Guangcheng at the embassy.

Chen Guangcheng had been at the US embassy for almost a week after escaping from house arrest in his home village in the eastern province of Shandong.

He had planned his escape from house arrest for months. On 27 April, he scaled the wall the authorities had built around his house and was then driven hundreds of miles to Beijing.

The activist spent seven years in prison or under house arrest after he exposed human rights abuses, including the way thousands of women were forced to have abortions under China’s “one-child-policy”.

Several people involved in Chen Guangcheng’s escape have been detained or have disappeared in recent days.