US orders 60 percent of staff out of embassy in Cuba: AP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has ordered 60 percent of its staff to leave the U.S. Embassy in Havana because of "specific attacks" on diplomats and will warn American tourists that some attacks have occurred in Cuban hotels, the Associated Press reported on Friday, citing unidentified senior officials.

The embassy will stop processing visas and will issue a new travel warning on Friday, the officials told AP.

U.S. and Congressional officials told Reuters on Thursday the United States was crafting a plan for a drawdown of staff from the embassy in Havana in response to the unexplained incidents that have harmed the health of some U.S. diplomats there.

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People walk past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A tour bus of Transgaviota drives past the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba June 13, 2017. Picture taken June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer
An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
People wait in line to enter the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, April 20, 2017. Picture taken April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
People wait to enter the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, April 20, 2017. Picture taken April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A vintage car passes by in front of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Cuban flags fly near U.S flag beside the U.S embassy in Havana December 31, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa
A man lowers the Cuban flag while standing amidst flagposts installed outside the U.S. embassy in Havana, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Flagposts installed outside the U.S. embassy cast their shadows on the sidewalk of the seafront Malecon in Havana, December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Tourists pass by the U.S. Embassy in Havana, February 18, 2016. Picture taken February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Competitors run past the U.S. embassy during the Marabana marathon in Havana, November 15, 2015. In the year since detente, more Americans are visiting Cuba, and more Cubans are trying to reach the U.S., concerned that special treatment for Cubans may end. While foreigners are in a frenzy, most Cubans report little change. Although they have guaranteed education and healthcare and minimal fear of violent crime, their wages are poor and economic opportunities limited. Picture taken November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
The Cuban flag flies at half staff in recognition of the death of Fidel Castro, the long time leader of Cuba, at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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U.S. officials say 21 U.S. diplomats and family members have been afflicted by health problems of unknown origin, including hearing loss, dizziness and nausea. Several Canadians have also been affected in Cuba, a Canadian official has said.

The Cuban government has denied any role and is investigating. But it has so far said it has been unable to determine the cause.

A partial evacuation, even one depicted by the Trump administration as a safety measure, would send a message of U.S. displeasure over Cuba’s handling of the matter and deliver another blow to Obama-era engagement policies with Havana.

Though Washington has not cast direct blame on Cuban authorities, the State Department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reminded Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington on Tuesday of Cuba's obligation to protect diplomats and their families.

(Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool)

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