UPDATE 1-U.S. orders non-emergency staff to exit Libya

Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:15pm GMT
 

* State Department warns of looting, violence for days

* Protesters reach capital on Monday (Adds new details, context)

WASHINGTON Feb 21 (Reuters) - The United States has ordered all non-emergency personnel to leave Libya, where anti-government protesters have been gathering for days amid turmoil throughout the Middle East.

The U.S. State Department, in also warning Embassy family members to leave the embattled country, said protests, violence and looting were possible during the next several days.

"Demonstrations have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, resulting in injuries and deaths," the State Department said in its warning.

The move comes amid conflicting reports in the region, including one that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was en route to Venezuela, a claim that government in Caracas denied.

Gaddafi's rule seemed increasingly fragile on Monday as protests reached the capital for the first time, with dozens dead at the hands of security forces. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Kim Dixon, editing by Todd Eastham)

 
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