The US State Department on Sunday issued a "travel alert" warning US citizens of "the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe," but a department official emphasized that it is "absolutely not" telling Americans to avoid traveling across the Atlantic. Speaking to reporters on a conference call Sunday, Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy said the alert, which falls short of an official "travel warning," was based on the "cumulative effect" of intelligence in recent weeks suggesting the threat of an al-Qaida-affiliated attack on a major European city. Japan's Foreign Ministry issued a similar warning, cautioning its citizens to be vigilant when using public transportation in Europe. The UK government cautioned its citizens traveling to France or Germany about a heightened threat. Kennedy said the intention of the alert is to prod Americans traveling in Europe to be "aware of possible incidents" and to "take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings." He encouraged US citizens traveling to Europe to register with US embassies or consulates "so that if you need help, we might be able to find you." He added, "We are not, repeat not, advising Americans not to go to Europe…We are not, not, not saying that they should defer travel to Europe at this time." But he did say that airline passengers should not "have lots of baggage tags on your luggage that directly identify you as an American." The State Department said the travel alert "expires on January 31, 2011."  The US Air Transport Assn. said it is "business as usual" for US carriers operating transatlantic services Monday.

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