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Slow U.S. evacuation plans leave thousands stranded
by reposted
Tuesday Jul 18th, 2006 6:59 AM
WASHINGTON — Thousands of Americans remained stranded Monday in Lebanon as the State and Defense departments developed plans to evacuate them.
By late Monday, 64 Americans had been flown by Marine helicopter to safety on the island of Cyprus. The pace of the evacuation angered some in the USA with relatives in the country.

"If anything, it seems to me the administration is willing to tolerate this, and they are not willing to interject themselves," said Nora Colton, whose husband, Middle Eastern studies expert Fawaz Gerges, and three of her children are in Lebanon.

As Israel and the militant Islamic group Hezbollah trade rocket attacks and airstrikes, European nations with citizens in Lebanon have evacuated more of their citizens more quickly than the United States.

For example, about 850 Swedes among about 5,000 in Lebanon have been evacuated, and Sweden also chartered three ships to bring Swedes from Beirut to Cyprus.

Colton said she was puzzled that Italy moved 350 Europeans out Monday and France docked a chartered Greek cruise liner that took away about 700 people, including some Americans.

Kurtis Cooper, a State Department spokesman, said U.S. officials didn't want to endanger Americans in Beirut in an ill-conceived evacuation.

by reposted
Tuesday Jul 18th, 2006 7:00 AM
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- The evacuation of Westerners from war-ravaged Lebanon picked up speed Tuesday as governments moved to get their citizens to safety by land, sea and air.

There was concern, however, that the evacuations were not proceeding quickly enough. The fighting between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah has turned parts of Lebanon, including the capital Beirut, into war zones.

An Italian vessel docked late Monday in the Cypriot port of Larnaca, carrying evacuees from Beirut, port officials said.

A France-dispatched ferry arrived Monday in Cyprus carrying about 1,250 foreign nationals.

In addition to about 800 French citizens, the ship carried about 400 nationals from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

The French will be flown Tuesday from Cyprus to Paris.

Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said Ottawa is doing "everything possible" to evacuate an estimated 40,000 Canadians in Lebanon. Eight Canadians were reported killed and six more critically wounded Sunday in Lebanon, he said.

Fewer than 70 of the 25,000 Americans thought to be in Lebanon have been evacuated, the U.S. State Department said Monday, but the federal government is moving to speed up the process.

by CT
Tuesday Jul 18th, 2006 7:01 AM
BEIRUT -- Hundreds of Westerners began fleeing Lebanon en masse on Monday as the first hints emerged that a diplomatic solution to the 6-day-old crisis could be taking shape.

U.S. officials said a cruise ship could be ready by Tuesday to start transporting up to 25,000 American citizens to safety, while European nations began evacuating several hundred of their citizens from Beirut's port.

The accelerated effort to rescue foreign nationals coincided with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert laying out conditions for Israel to halt its bombings, as well as proposals by European and UN leaders to dispatch an international peacekeeping force to southern Lebanon to act as a buffer between the warring Israeli army and Hezbollah militia. U.S. officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could soon be dispatched to the region.

But there was no letup in the intensity of the rocket attacks targeting Israel and air strikes against Lebanon that have claimed the lives of 234 people in the past six days, according to an Associated Press count. Of them, 24 were Israeli and 210 Lebanese.

by SI
Tuesday Jul 18th, 2006 7:01 AM
Only one woman and two children were able to leave Beirut by ferry on Monday night out of a group of 40 Swiss nationals wanting to leave the embattled Lebanese capital.

Israeli forces ordered the ship to leave the harbour early, fearing that they could not guarantee security after nightfall.

The Greek ferry chartered by France arrived in the Cypriot port of Larnaca early on Tuesday morning.

About 900 passengers, including around 750 French, were evacuated according to French officials. Three hundred other people were due to have caught the ship but the operation was curtailed when night fell for security reasons.

Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Jean-Philippe Jeannerat confirmed that only three or four reached the port of Larnaca on Tuesday morning.

Earlier on Monday the ministry had announced that 40 Swiss were among about 1,200 foreigners being evacuated on board the ferry.

"When our ambassador François Barras and staff found out that the ship was leaving and many people were blocked in Beirut harbour, they immediately went there," Jeannerat told French-language Swiss radio.

"Some of them could be put up in hotels... some were even put up at the embassy."

Uncertain evacuation

Jeannerat added that he could not say when other evacuation operations would take place. This depended on the intensity of Israeli bombing.

Foreigners seeking to be evacuated have besieged embassies and foreign organisations in Beirut.

Barras told Swiss public radio on Monday that hundreds of Swiss citizens wanted to escape Lebanon. He said that most of these people were dual nationals who only wanted to leave temporarily, but warned it would not be possible to evacuate all of them for a few days.