The United States is evacuating nonessential diplomatic personnel and dependents from about 10 Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia, where it is felt they may be threatened by an upsurge of anti-American feeling.
A state Department spokesman said yesterday that, "in light of our recent experiences," the government was undertaking the evacuation as a temporary measure "to reduce any potential threat to Americans."
Department officials referred to the withdrawal of some personnel as a "voluntary drawdown" and said all American embassies would remain open.
Department officials declined to name the countries involved, but other sources said they included Iraq, Bangladesh and Arab sheikdoms along the Presian Gulf. A diplomatic source said that "so far" Saudi Arabia was not on the list. Sources told the Associated Press that Lebanon, Syria and North Yemen were on the list, and that Turkey, Jordan and Egypt were not.
Officials said the foreign missions concerned have been asked to notify private U.S. businessmen of the evacuation plan and suggest they consider making arrangements to leave.
The evacuation will start "as soon as possible" and in some places may have begun already, State Department officials said. The move precedes a series of Islamic holy days that officials fear will inflame passions already running high against Americans in parts of the Islamic world.
Anti-U.S. sentiment has been stirred in recent weeks by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who has blamed the United States for last week's seizure of the Great Mosque of Mecca by Moslem religious fanatics. Moslems who belived the United States was involved in that attack burned the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, killing two Americans, and anti-American demonstrations broke out in Bangladesh, India and Turkey.
The United States already has evacuated Americans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has advised U.S. citizens to leave Iran, where militant Moslem students seized the U.S. Embassy and took the embassy staff hostage Nov. 4. The Iranians still hold 49 Americans and have threatened to try them as spies.
Yesterday's statement said: "The State Department has now advised its missions in certain countries that voluntary departure of nonessential personnel and dependents will be facilitated in those posts where current circumstances increase the risk to U.S. personnel."
It stressed that "any reduction is a precautionary, prudent and temporary measure to reduce any potential threat to Americans. We intend to continue to conduct a full range of dipolmatic relations at all posts affected."
A department spokesman said the departures would be on normally scheduled commercial flights, but "we'll foot the bill." U.S. businessmen and other Americans who decide to follow the government's example are expected to pay their own way.
Officals stressed that the withdrawal was temporary, but it was not immediately known when those who are evacuated would be advised they could return.
"Over the next month, we'll be making periodic checks to see if they can go back," another department official said.
A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military would not be involved in evacuating the Americans but could not say whether any military personnel would be among those withdrawn.
Government officials said the measure would help host governments safeguard American diplomatic personnel. However, it was also noted that the evacuation would make any military moves against Iran potentially less costly by limiting U.S. targets in other Islamic countries in the area.
The decision to withdraw some embassy staff and dependents followed a somewhat irritated response last week by "Moslem ambassadors" summoned to a meeting with Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance. The purpose of the meeting was to request additional security at U.S. dipolomatic missions in their countries.
Some of the approximately 30 ambassadors summoned reportedly expressed annoyance that their countries had been singled out for such requests. Several complained about being identified by their religion and said the Carter administration was fueling sentiment that Moslems were inherently anti-American.
Islamic scholars here have said they doubt that a wave of anti-Americanism is sweeping the Islamic world. Rather, they said, fanaticism in Iran has emboldened groups of like-minded Moslems elsewhere to test their strength.
Thus the upcoming Shiite Moslem holiday of Ashura could provide an opportunity for anti-American outbursts in Moslem countries where the sect is in the minority, some analysts believe. An estimated 85 percent of the world's Moslems belong to the Sunni sect, which does not osberve the Ashura holiday, a period of mourning to commemorate the death of the Shiite saint Iman Hossein more than 1,300 years ago.