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Embassies Vulnerable To Car Bombs

August 4, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Four out of five U.S. diplomatic outposts still do not meet standards that would adequately protect them from bombs similar to those that blasted embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a year ago, officials said today.

Nevertheless, security improvements at every U.S. embassy and consulate around the world have significantly increased the safety of American diplomats, the State Department reported.

``We’ve made improvements at every single post around the world,″ said Peter Bergin, deputy secretary of state for diplomatic security, at a briefing with other officials.

Bombs at the embassies in Africa Aug. 7 killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Patrick Kennedy, assistant secretary of state for administration, repeated an assessment by a government commission that found that fewer than 50 of the 265 U.S. diplomatic outposts meet the standard of a safety perimeter that would protect them from large car bombs.

As the threat of a repeat attack continues, nearly 70 embassies were closed for one day or more because of safety concerns or specific threats since the bombings, Bergin said, All have reopened.

He said 4,000 new local security guards have been hired, streets closed, perimeter property purchased and counter-terrorism equipment installed at posts around the world since the bombings.

In addition, concrete and steel barriers have been erected at several facilities, and 140 new diplomatic security directors have been installed at various embassies.

``In our view, we’ve improved diplomatic security worldwide, but there’s more we will do,″ Bergin said.

Michael Sheehan, counter-terrorism coordinator for the government, noted progress against terrorists. He cited the arrests of eight people accused in the African bombings and charges against those and another nine, including Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, accused of plotting and directing the simultaneous attacks.

The administration is seeking $11.5 billion over the next decade to improve security at diplomatic posts, Kennedy said.

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