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TRAVEL ADVISORY

U.S. Warns of Possible 'Retaliatory Acts' and Issues Alerts on Mideast and Austria

November 29, 1998|EDWARD WRIGHT | Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly

Worldwide

The possibility of U.S. military action against Iraq appears to have receded, but as of press time, the State Department was still warning of "the potential for retaliatory acts" against Americans overseas in the event of hostilities. The Nov. 12 announcement urges Americans to be vigilant, keep a low profile, vary routes and times for travel and look with suspicion on mail from unfamiliar sources. (Two days following the report, assailants shouting anti-American slogans used stones and iron rods to attack a bus carrying 13 American tourists in Tehran. Windows were broken and some of the tourists suffered minor injuries due to flying glass, the State Department reported.)

Those planning trips abroad should be aware of current State Department advisories. Specific alerts were issued for two locales:

Middle East: In two new travel warnings reflecting increased Mideast tension, Washington authorized the departure of nonessential diplomatic staff and dependents from both Israel and Kuwait and said private citizens "may want to consider departing."

Austria: The U.S. Embassy in Vienna said it has credible information on "the possibility of a terrorist act in the near future" against American facilities in Austria. Security has been tightened, and Americans should be on the alert.

Central America

Hurricane Mitch lashed the entire region late last month, leaving an estimated 10,000 people dead and carving a path of destruction from Costa Rica to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In the aftermath, diseases such as pneumonia, hepatitis A and cholera have begun to appear, and officials warn of malaria and typhoid. Worst hit were Honduras and Nicaragua, and the State Department--while stopping short of warning Americans against traveling to those countries--laid out the risks:

Honduras: More than 100 bridges destroyed, bringing land transportation virtually to a halt. Water supplies to major cities and towns polluted or interrupted. Shortages of food and medicine, resulting in looting in some areas. Nationwide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Nicaragua: Many towns inaccessible by road, especially in north-central mountains and northern Pacific Coast region, resulting in local shortages of food and potable water. Electrical and telephone services disrupted in many areas. Supplies of medicine limited.

Asia

Indonesia: Political and economic unrest has led to violent demonstrations in Jakarta, the capital, in recent weeks, and dozens of people have been killed. The State Department advises Americans to defer non-essential travel to Jakarta. The violence has not affected tourist areas on the island of Bali, but Americans in all parts of Indonesia should avoid crowds and disturbances.

Street crime is also a concern. In apparent robberies, two foreigners have been killed after entering taxis in Jakarta. Visitors who need taxis are advised to obtain one from a hotel queue or to summon one by telephone, not to hail one.

Europe

Greece: An accidental police shooting of a tourist last month led to harsh criticism of police procedures by both the media and the Greek government. A 17-year-old Serbian student was shot to death by a policeman chasing a purse snatcher on the main shopping street in Thessaloniki. Greece's press and information minister labeled the incident "a classic case of failure" and added: "The police are below the level they should be." Reports in the Greek press have described police involvement in drug traffic, prostitution and the protection racket, according to the Reuters news agency. Newspaper editorials have accused the police and government of failing to protect the public from rising crime in what used to be one of Europe's safest countries.

Briefly . . .

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