Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

80 Britons Are Airlifted to Safety from Beirut

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

80 Britons Are Airlifted to Safety from Beirut

Article excerpt


BRITAIN'S mission to evacuate up to 10,000 people from Beirut was under way today.

Nearly 40 sick and elderly people and children were being flown by helicopters out of the city to Cyprus this afternoon. Thirty-six people have already been airlifted out.

HMS Illustrious and HMS Bulwark are steaming towards Lebanon's coast for a full-scale evacuation if the violence worsens. Some Royal Navy ships are already off the coast.

Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells stressed evacuations - which could be the biggest since the Second World War - could take place only with the co-operation of the Israeli and Lebanese authorities.

He said: "The priority has to be the safety of those we are trying to evacuate. It is no good bringing people out from comparative safety where they are hunkered down at the moment and putting them into very dangerous-positions in the hope of bringing them out." A Foreign Office spokesman added: "We are evacuating the needy at the moment. We are putting in plans for a major evacuation if necessary."

Tony Blair proposed a multinational force to set up a buffer zone on the Israel-Lebanon border. Israeli ground forces entered southern Lebanon to attack Hezbollah bases on the border but later withdrew, a military spokesman said today.

Tony Blair said the Government was "doing everything" it could to get citizens to safety. Britons looking to leave were advised to listen to the World Service or contact the embassy. But there was anger among some of those caught in Beirut at the slowness of the Foreign Office operation. Charity worker Clair Vainola, from Newcastleupon-Tyne, said: "It has been very frightening. When I did speak to [the British Embassy] they just told me to stay calm."

Britain's ambassador in Beirut, James Watt, said 40 UK nationals who "needed to move" were flown out this morning on board helicopters carrying European Union foreign policy representative Javier Solana after his talks with Lebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora. …

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