News / Middle East

US Unable to Evacuate Diplomats from Libya

A Jordanian woman evacuated from Tripoli is received by her family as she arrives in Queen Alia Airport near Amman, Jordan, February 21, 2011
A Jordanian woman evacuated from Tripoli is received by her family as she arrives in Queen Alia Airport near Amman, Jordan, February 21, 2011

The United States says it has not been able to move some of its non-essential diplomats from Libya, as governments send airplanes and ships to pick up their citizens stranded by Libya's bloody unrest.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday the United States was looking at various ways to move the diplomats, their families, and other Americans out of Libya. He did not elaborate on why the U.S. could not to do so on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the safety and wellbeing of Americans is the highest U.S. priority.

Meanwhile, Britain's foreign secretary says his country has redeployed a warship closer to Libya to aid in the evacuation effort. William Hague says the Royal Navy warship HMS Cumberland has been put on standby to help Britons get home should it be needed.

The U.S., Europe, and Libya's neighbors are evacuating thousands of foreign citizens trying to flee deadly violence triggered by a Libyan uprising against longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The Netherlands and France have confirmed that their planes received permission to land in the city of Tripoli, but the French news agency reports that one of France's three planes has been diverted to Malta.  

Italy's ENI natural gas company says it is evacuating all non-essential staff and their families from Libya Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that ENI is Libya's largest foreign operator and takes one-third of Libya's oil and gas production.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday Cairo is sending military and civilian aircraft to Libya to bring home some of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who live there.  But he said the Egyptian planes would not be landing in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi -- one of the cities hit hardest by the violence -- saying airport has been destroyed.

Egyptian security sources say Cairo's new military rulers also ordered troop reinforcements to Egypt's side of the border with Libya in response to the unrest.  Egyptian authorities also have extended the opening hours of the Slum border crossing with Libya and sent medical teams to the site to accommodate thousands of Egyptians fleeing by land.

Greece will evacuate as many as 15,000 Chinese nationals out of Libya this week after China asked for help. Greek officials say they are considering evacuation requests from other countries.

Turkey says it has sent several ships to the Libyan coast to pick up thousands of Turkish workers stranded in Benghazi.  Many of the Turkish citizens gathered in a Benghazi stadium Tuesday to wai for the ships to arrive at the city's port.

Turkey says it has 25,000 citizens in Libya, many of them working in construction.  Tunisia says more than 3,000 of its nationals already have fled Libya, mostly by land, and more are waiting to leave by air.

The Philippines said Tuesday it will help Philippine workers trying to leave Libya by paying for their flights.  At least 26,000 Philippine citizens reside there.  South Korea also urged its workers in Libya to return home after looters attacked several South Korean-operated construction sites.

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