By Julian Pecquet and Meghashyam Mali - 09/16/12 10:27 AM EDT
The State Department on Saturday ordered the departure of non-essential embassy staff from Sudan and Tunisia to protect them from a wave of violent anti-American protests which have rocked the region.
“Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, according to reports.
Reports said the department encouraged American citizens to leave Tunisia on commercial flights and cautioned those who remained in the country to avoid public demonstrations.
In Sudan, reports Saturday said that the government there had rejected a request from the Obama administration to send Marines to protect the U.S. compound from rioters.
The Sudan news agency SUNA reported Saturday that Foreign Minister Ali Karti discussed the possibility of sending a platoon of about 50 Marines with an unidentified senior State Department official Friday night.
The report says Sudan “has apologized for the reception of these forces” and reaffirmed “Sudan's ability to protect the diplomatic missions in Khartoum and the State's obligation to protect its guests.”
“The Government of Sudan has recommitted itself both publicly and privately to continue to protect our Mission, as it is obligated to do under the Vienna Convention,” Nuland said in an e-mailed statement. “We have requested additional security precautions as a result of yesterday's damage to our Embassy. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely to ensure we have what we need to protect our people and facility.”
Protesters incensed by an anti-Islam movie posted to YouTube by a southern California man breached the U.S. and German embassy compounds in Khartoum on Friday, and Sudanese security forces killed at least two protesters.
While the White House has condemned the video, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said there is “no justification” for the violence.
Clinton and President Obama have pressed Middle Eastern leaders to better protect Americans from the protest which claimed the lives of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
In an interview on Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the U.S. military was also positioning troops to be able to respond to unrest in the region.
Panetta said there were certain hotspots the Pentagon was “paying particular attention to,” in an interview with Foreign Policy.
"We have to be prepared in the event that these demonstrations get out of control," Panetta said.