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Saudi-based dependents may leave

The State Department, amid continuing worry that terrorists might again attack Americans in Saudi Arabia, has authorized the departure at government expense of hundreds of Saudi-based dependents of U.S. military and civilian employees.

Spokesman Nicholas Burns cited threats both before and since the June 25 truck bombing that claimed the lives of 19 U.S. servicemen. Defense Secretary William Perry has testified before Congress that more attacks can be expected.

But Burns said no new threat led to Monday's offer to pay for families to leave. He said the United States remains confident in the Saudi kingdom's commitment to provide security for all Americans.

The language of Burns' announcement apparently was crafted to avoid offending Saudi sensitivities. Recent U.S. comments about moving troops to safer quarters caused minor discord after some Saudi officials interpreted them as suggesting the Saudis could not protect the Americans.

About 40,000 private Americans work in Saudi Arabia, mostly for oil companies.