Europe evacuates citizens from Lebanon | india | Hindustan Times
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Europe evacuates citizens from Lebanon

india Updated: Jul 16, 2006 10:50 IST
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Most European nations have started evacuating their citizens from Lebanon in view of Israel's military offensive and blockade on the country.

Poland's embassy in Beirut compiled Saturday a list of Polish citizens seeking to leave Lebanon, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said.

There are presently an estimated 700 Poles including 230 soldiers as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The embassy was in constant contact with around 300 Poles. Several dozen Polish tourists are also estimated to be in the Lebanon at present.

Bulgaria also prepared to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon "in accordance and in close cooperation with the EU", the foreign ministry said in Sofia.

Around 300 out of 500 Bulgarian nationals presently residing in Lebanon want to leave the country.

Italy and Spain had already acted to move their nationals to safety, while Britain, France and Nordic states were preparing similar operations.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said buses and cars were being organised to drive people to the Syrian capital Damascus and Jordan's capital Amman.

He said an evacuation centre was being set up on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and a ferry had been chartered to transport 800 to 1,000 French citizens there Sunday.

Two air force transport planes, three helicopters, a frigate and a ship capable of carrying 1,000 passengers were being readied to evacuate foreigners, Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said.

Around 20,000 French nationals, including tourists and business travellers are estimated to be in Lebanon, which was briefly ruled by French mandate in the aftermath of World War 1.

The Italian embassy in Beirut had helped 420 foreigners, including 300 Italians, to evacuate from Beirut by bus to safer areas in northern Lebanon, Italian state television reported.

Authorities in Spain confirmed they had bussed about 120 Spanish citizens out of Lebanon to Damascus, from where they left for Madrid in a military plane.

Switzerland and Germany have jointly organised the departure of their citizens for Damascus. Fifty-four Swiss citizens and 30 German nationals arrived on Saturday in Damascus, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Berne said. Around 838 Swiss nationals reside presently in Lebanon.

The British Foreign Office urged its citizens to report to the British embassy in Beirut in preparation for an eventual evacuation and also urged them to remain inconspicuous.

Meanwhile, the US government plans to fly its citizens out of Lebanon via Cyprus, according to a message sent to Americans in the country by the US State Department Saturday.

However, it stressed that the costs of the flights had to be paid for by those who wanted to leave Lebanon, but there was the possibility of applying for loans. The government was in contact with commercial airlines to ensure that there would be sufficient capacity available in Cyprus to continue the journey home.

The US administration put the number of US citizens in Lebanon at around 25,000.

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