WASHINGTON — The State Department said Friday that it is taking very seriously a flurry of threats by Islamic extremists against U.S. diplomats in Beirut. Two U.S. warships cut short a port call in Spanish territory and put to sea, possibly headed toward the Lebanese capital.
"Let me make it very clear that embassy personnel are not being evacuated from Lebanon," State Department spokesman Edward Djerejian said. "Obviously, we continue to be concerned about the security of U.S. government personnel in Lebanon and have their safety and their interests continually under review."
Another State Department official, who declined to be identified, later elaborated on Djerejian's statement: "We are not evacuating--present tense."
Some Sailors Left Behind
The Pentagon said that the aircraft carrier Eisenhower and the accompanying cruiser Mississippi left the island of Majorca, Spanish territory about 150 miles from the mainland in the Balearic Islands, three days ahead of schedule Thursday. They are now at sea in the western Mediterranean. A U.S. official said 110 of the Eisenhower's 6,000 crew were left behind when they could not be located before the abrupt departure.
The Pentagon declined to disclose the destination of the ships, but there was speculation they would stand by off Lebanon in case the situation heats up further. CBS News said two U.S. C-130 transport planes, which could be used for an evacuation, arrived Friday in Cyprus.