British diplomats pulled out of Iraq Thursday and the United Nations evacuated hundreds of personnel and their families from Israel as fear of war heightened in the Middle East.

The United States, Australia and the Netherlands announced preparations to withdraw their diplomatic officials. German officials said their remaining diplomats in Iraq have returned home.Britain evacuated all but one diplomat from Baghdad, sending the others out of the city in a convoy at dawn. Britain's more than 30,000 troops represent the largest Western presence after the United States in the multinational force confronting Iraq in the region.

Officials from the 12-nation European Community were meeting in Luxembourg and were expected to reach a joint decision to evacuate their embassies, an Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Rome.

Fear of war grew after the failed Geneva talks Wednesday between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.

A U.N. deadline gives Iraq until Tuesday to quit Kuwait or face possible attack from the U.S.-led coalition of more than 600,000 troops.

In Moscow, the official news agency Tass reported that another group of Soviet citizens evacuated from Iraq returned to the Soviet Union on Wednesday night. Tass said 290 Soviet citizens would remain in Iraq "to ensure the functioning of Soviet institutions."

The Bush administration has said its remaining diplomats will be pulled out of Baghdad on Saturday. Western diplomatic sources in the Iraqi capital said Thursday that an aircraft would likely be chartered to evacuate some U.S. diplomats, as well as diplomatic staff from other Western countries.

U.S. Charge d'Affaires Joseph C. Wilson IV told reporters that Iraqi authorities "have assured me from the very beginning about my own security" and that "of my diplomats and staff here."

The Iraqi government Thursday deployed additional security around the U.S. Embassy in the posh Masbah district. The compound is normally guarded by four special police officers.