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More U.S. staff ordered to leave South Sudan

| Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, 6:57 p.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The State Department on Friday said it is evacuating additional American Embassy personnel from South Sudan and urged all U.S. citizens to leave the country as well, even as opposing factions began talks in neighboring Ethiopia aimed at stopping a budding civil war.

In a travel advisory posted on its website, the State Department said it had ordered a further reduction of U.S. Embassy personnel from South Sudan's capital, Juba, “because of the deteriorating security situation” in the world's newest country, which has been torn apart by fighting between rival military groups since mid-December.

The U.S. military evacuated about 20 Americans on Friday as part of the embassy drawdown in Juba, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. The American personnel departed South Sudan on a KC-130 aircraft that arrived in Juba from Entebbe, Uganda. The embassy staff was taken back to Entebbe.

About 45 U.S. troops are still in Juba to protect the embassy; Obama sent them there last month.

The embassy will stop providing consular services for any remaining American citizens by Saturday, the State Department advisory said.

The United States will provide an evacuation flight “to the nearest safe haven country” on Friday, the notice said. It told U.S. citizens who want a seat on that flight to pack no more than one piece of luggage and to take $50 in cash to pay for a Ugandan visa, indicating that Uganda will be either the first stop or the final destination in the government-arranged journey.

“Evacuation assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible U.S. citizens,” the advisory read. “U.S. citizens who are not able to take advantage of the evacuation flight should review their security situation and strongly consider taking advantage of any existing commercial flights.”

The drawdown suggests that U.S. diplomats are deeply concerned about the prospects for a cease-fire.

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