The Cable

U.S. citizens evacuating from Libya via ferry

The State Department is evacuating U.S. citizens from Libya on Wednesday using a chartered ferry, with the assistance of the Libyan government.

The U.S. government's chartered ferry is expected to depart the As-shahab Port in central Tripoli en route for Valletta, Malta, on Wednesday, the State Department said. Those onboard are required to have their travel documents in order in advance and are allowed one suitcase and one carry-on item. Pets are only allowed if they met stringent European Union requirements and will probably be quarantined for six weeks upon arrival in Malta.

"U.S. citizens seeking evacuation should be prepared to wait several hours. Travelers are advised to bring food, water, diapers and other necessary toiletries with them to the pier," the State Department advisory warned.

U.S. citizens are required to sign an agreement to reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the ferry trip at a later date. They will also enjoy no further travel assistance once they reach Malta. Prospective evacuees with questions can contact the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli at LibyaEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling +1-202-501-4444.

The State Department ordered all embassy family members and non-emergency personnel to leave Libya on Monday. The U.S. government was also preparing to send chartered planes to Tripoli's airport -- which is still in service -- if the commercial carriers operating there are unable to evacuate all the American citizens there. However, Libyan permission for the U.S. government to bring in chartered planes has not been granted.

There are about 6,000 American citizens in Libya, many of whom have dual nationalities, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Tuesday. 35 U.S. Embassy employees and their families were affected by the order for non-emergency personnel to depart and are reportedly on the ferry due to leave on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the situation in Libya on Tuesday afternoon.

"Now, as always, the safety and well-being of Americans has to be our highest priority, and we are in touch with many Libyan officials directly and indirectly and with other governments in the region to try to influence what is going on inside Libya," she said.

"As we gain a greater understanding of what actually is happening … we will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values, and our laws. But we're going to have to work in concert with the international community."

The Cable

Administration officials spread out around Gulf

The Obama administration has sent a host of senior officials to the Persian Gulf this week as unrest continues in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman left on Tuesday for a tour of the region that will include stops in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates; he will return to Washington on March 2. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns and NSC Senior Director David Lipton traveled to Cairo on Monday. And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen left over the weekend on a prescheduled trip to the region that included stops in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

"During his trip to the Gulf, Assistant Secretary Feltman will reaffirm the United States' commitment to our longstanding partnerships in the region as well as universal human rights, freedom of expression, and the promotion of democratic principles," the State Department said in a statement. "He will also reiterate to leaders that, while each country is unique, recent events in the region underscore the critical need to address calls for social, political, and economic reform in a peaceful, inclusive, and transparent manner."

In Cairo, Burns met with Arab League chief Amr Moussa, praised the beginning of Egypt's "transition to democracy," and called for the interim government to lift the long-imposed emergency law, which the interim government has pledged to do at some unspecified future date.

Mullen, who may also visit Bahrain, told reporters his trip was meant to "reassure, discuss and understand what's going on" with regional leaders. He lauded Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad al-Khalifa for deciding to hold talks with demonstrators, saying "it had relieved a number of [regional] leaders in terms of easing tensions."

Back at the State Department, the unfolding crisis in the Arab world is still being managed largely by Burns, Feltman, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jacob Walles, with a good dose of personal involvement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, a State Department official told The Cable.

Feltman has been dealing with the Libyan government directly throughout the crisis and has held multiple conversations with officials in Tripoli, including Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa, a State Department official said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Tuesday that nobody in the U.S. government had spoken directly to Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, but said that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had spoken with the Libyan leader. Crowley condemned the ongoing violence but declined to call for Qaddafi's exit.

"It's not for the United States, you know, to choose the leader of Libya or the leader of any other country. It is for the people of Libya who are standing up and protesting the policies and actions of their government," he said. "This is a matter between the Libyan people and the Libyan leadership. Ultimately, they should have every right to choose who leads their country."

Meanwhile, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) are also touring the region this week while Congress is on break. They began their trip in Tunisia and also plan to visit Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Egypt.

The senators offered security aid to Tunisia and called for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Libya to stop the government's air assaults on protesters.

"Some Libyan diplomats have bravely called for a no-fly zone to stop the Qaddafi regime's use of airpower to attack Libyan civilians. We support this course of action. Other steps that should be considered include targeted sanctions and asset freezes against Libyan officials, an arms embargo, and the immediate suspension of Libya from international organizations," they said in a statement.

AFP/Getty Images.