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Suspicious Mail Closes U.S. Embassy

August 10, 2004

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka was closed and staff was evacuated Tuesday after it received mail containing a suspicious powder, officials said.

All departments, including the visa section, were closed for ``administrative and security reasons,″ spokesman Chris Long said. He said he did not know when the embassy would reopen.

``We are evaluating data as it comes,″ he said.

Another embassy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the embassy was closed after it received mail with a powdery substance.

The embassy’s staff was gathered in the building’s auditorium and were told to evacuate the building in 10 minutes, another officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. They were also advised to refrain from opening any mail they may have taken home.

Minutes after the embassy was shut, the nearly building which houses USAID, the embassy’s publicity division and the American public library were also shut down indefinitely.

In 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo received mail containing a white powdery substance, raising worries over anthrax. However, subsequent investigations proved the powder did not contain anthrax spores.

On Thursday, the U.S. Embassy and American Center in New Delhi, India, were closed because of security concerns. Indian newspapers reported that the embassy was warned of a possible attack by terrorists, but officials did not give a specific reason.

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