WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four U.S. military personnel currently in Libya are part of a State Department assessment mission looking at reopening the U.S. Embassy, and their presence signals no shift in the U.S. role in the country, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday.
Navy Captain John Kirby, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military personnel were part of a team led by the State Department's chief of mission for Libya and were looking at whether the U.S. Embassy could still be used.
"As I understand it the embassy ... was pretty well trashed and they're trying to go back in and see if that facility is still usable and if it is what needs to be done to bring it back online. If it's not, then what are the options beyond that," Kirby said.
He said two of the U.S. military personnel were explosive ordnance experts "because one of the concerns was ... whether there was a presence of any kind of munitions at the site or any kind of hazards in that regard."
Kirby said the military personnel would provide for their own security.
"But this is not an offensive or even a defensive mission," he added. "They are simply there under the direction of the chief of mission to help with the ... physical facility assessment for the reestablishment of an embassy. That is the limit of their mission."
Kirby and Pentagon spokesman George Little said the presence of U.S. military personnel in Libya should not be interpreted as a shift in the overall role the United States has had as part of the NATO mission for Libya.
"The military support mission to the NATO operation has not changed," Little said.
President Barack Obama has ruled out sending U.S. ground forces into Libya, where a rebel force ousted longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi with the help of NATO air power.
Asked about Gaddafi's whereabouts, Kirby said the Pentagon had no information to suggest that he had left Libya. He said the military personnel in Tripoli were not involved in any hunt for Gaddafi.
(Editing by Eric Beech)