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Americans in Mideast To Be Low-Key

November 6, 2000

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ The election-day parties usually thrown by American expatriates in the Middle East will be muted this year: Alarmed by rising anti-U.S. sentiment here, many Americans plan to keep a low profile.

In Bahrain, the U.S. Embassy has canceled a party planned for Tuesday. And the U.S. State Department has warned Americans in the region to be cautious because of the anti-U.S. mood, whipped up recently by Israeli-Palestinian violence.

``I don’t think U.S. citizens are going to be as vocal or outspoken on election day,″ said Marcy Fletchall, a U.S. academic in the United Arab Emirates.

``In terms of going out and partying in large numbers, I don’t think that’s going to happen,″ said Fletchall, who teaches at Zayed University in Dubai. ``We’re following the (U.S.) consulate’s orders.″

Thousands of Arabs have demonstrated against the United States in the past five weeks, condemning it for what they regard as a pro-Israel position on the deadly Israeli-Palestinian clashes.

Protesters pelted the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, with stones and pieces of garbage. In Cairo, Egypt, students burned the U.S. flag. Riot police had to fire tear gas to disperse protesters marching on the U.S. embassies in Amman, Jordan, and Manama.

The threat to U.S. personnel and property was heightened by the Oct. 12 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

In Bahrain, spokeswoman Donna Winton said security concerns led the U.S. Embassy to cancel an election party planned at a bar in Manama. Instead, the embassy will hold an election function on its own premises, Winton said.

In Israel, where U.S. presidential elections are usually an excuse for American residents to cut loose, the U.S. Embassy said it would be holding no public events on Tuesday night.

Spokesman Larry Schwartz said he was not at liberty to say why. But the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted local Republican and Democratic leaders as saying they would be no big celebrations because of the prevailing atmosphere.

Three other U.S. embassies in the Middle East said their election night parties would be more discreet than in 1996, but their spokesmen would not admit that security was the reason.

In Jordan, the U.S. Embassy said it would not hold any events on Tuesday night but that it would hold a celebration later. In 1996, the embassy sponsored an all-night party at a sports club.

In Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the embassy plans to hold a small gathering for invited guests. In 1996, the embassy gave a big party at a hotel.

In Cairo, the ambassador has invited some of the country’s estimated 16,000 Americans to a party at his residence, spokesman Dave Ballard said.

Ballard said security was not an issue.

``If we’d known there was so much demand, we would have had it at one of the hotels as we’ve done in the past,″ he said.

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