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The U.S. State Department on Tuesday ordered all nonessential government personnel and their families in Egypt to leave the restive country now in a second week of political turmoil.

Stepping up an evacuation effort that has already taken 1,200 Americans out of Egypt in the last two days, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley announced the decision to reduce the U.S. government presence in Egypt to only those needed to maintain vital communications and services.

A chaotic exodus from the protest-wracked Egyptian capital continued Tuesday, with officials at Cairo International Airport reporting 18,000 had besieged the transport hub in hopes of leaving the country. In its Internet messages to U.S. citizens heading out of Egypt, the State Department advised all travelers to bring food, water and other essentials for what could be a long wait to board a departing aircraft.

Britain, China, Australia and Thailand also were among the countries organizing evacuation flights for their nationals to escape the spreading unrest.

Anti-government protesters have paralyzed Cairo and other major cities with demonstrations demanding an end to what they see as the corrupt and repressive 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak. LAT

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