Bahamas Officials Seek Retraction of State Dept. Alert

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NEW YORK -- Bahamian tourism officials sought a retraction of a U.S. State Department alert that cautions visitors to the islands to "pay extra attention to their security."

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism said government officials doubt the credibility of an informant who warned the U.S. Embassy in Nassau of unspecified violence against U.S. interests in the Bahamas. "Although the informant's credibility, honesty and reliability have come into question, these allegations remain under active investigation by the Bahamas Police," the ministry statement said.

A State Department spokeswoman said the announcement, the lowest-level communique issued by the department, "is [based on] information we take seriously," but it is not a caution against traveling to the Bahamas.

Vincent Principe, consul at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, said that pending investigation by the State Department, the announcement could be canceled or updated. "At this point, the threat can't be confirmed or denied, and we're obliged to make it public," he said. "It's a sign of the times. After Oklahoma City and Lockerbie [Scotland], if we didn't make [the threat] known to Americans, we'd be called on the carpet."

The alert expires Aug. 7, but director general of tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said the Bahamian government is seeking a retraction of the announcement immediately.

Back in the U.S., major tour operators Travel Impressions and Certified Vacations reported no cancellations and few calls regarding the announcement. Similarly, the Bahamas Hotel Association reported telephone inquiries but no cancellations.

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, director general of the Bahamas tourism ministry, said that hotels' security staffs have been apprised of the situation, and a "minimal" amount of concern has been reported by guests.

The ministry sent a broadcast fax to 23,000 travel companies alerting them to the existence of the announcement.

The statement said, "We are hosting a record number of visitors this year and our guests continue to enjoy their vacations. We can assure our travel partners in the U.S. and throughout the world that it is business as usual."

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