Kerry: Libya evacuation not permanent

 

Secretary of State John Kerry said personnel evacuated from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya early Saturday would return as soon as the security situation improved.

"Because of the free-wheeling militia violence in Tripoli -- and a lot is around our embassy, not on it but around it -- it presents a very real risk to our personnel," Kerry said during a joint press conference with leaders from Turkey, which also evacuated some 700 people.

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Kerry stressed that the violence was not directed at the U.S. embassy, seeking to quell concerns as violence against American diplomats is still a concern among many officials.

"We are suspending, not closing the embassy, but suspending activities," Kerry said at the press conference broadcast by CNN.

The State Department also issued a warning Saturday to all Americans to not travel to Libya and told those already there to leave immediately.

He said the U.S. remains committed to the diplomatic process in Libya and said an envoy would continue to be engaged.

Kerry also called on all Libyans to engage in the political process.

In recent week, fighting between the military and militia groups in Libya has killed dozens. Since the uprising that ousted former dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power some three years ago, the government has had difficulty maintaing control throughout the country.

"We will return the moment the security situation permits us to do so but given the situation  -- as with Turkey who moved 700 people -- we want to take every precaution to protect our folks," Kerry said Satruday.

In 2012, an attack at a CIA outpost in Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The attack still strikes a nerve among lawmakers on Capitol. The House has created a special committee to look into the incident.