India deplores violence in Libya; plans evacuation of Indians

New Delhi, Feb 22 (PTI) India tonight deplored the use offorce by Libyan authorities against anti-government protestersand said it was finalising a "mammoth" operation to evacuateabout 18,000 Indian nationals from the African nation.

"We deplore all the reports of violence that we believeis happening on many streets in Libyan cities. Many lives havebeen lost and we hope calm can return and peace prevail,"Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters here.

"The government deplores the use of force which istotally unacceptable and must not be resorted to," an ExternalAffairs Ministry statement said.

Expressing concern over safety of Indian nationals inLibya, Rao said efforts were being made to finalisearrangements for evacuation of Indians from that country.

"This is going to be quite a mammoth operation. We willhave to not only put in place arrangements for aircraft orships but also obtain permission from Libyan authorities forour aircraft to land there," Rao said after aninter-ministerial meeting to put in place evacuation plans.

She said government plans to put in place the evacuationplans "as soon as possible".

She said the airport in Benghazi has been damaged in theunrest and was not available for use and efforts were beingmade to access Tripoli airport.

Rao said a passenger ship that can ferry 1,000 personshas been identified in the Red Sea and directions have beengiven for it to stay in the vicinity.

The ship is expected to evacuate Indian nationals fromLibya to the nearest safe point in the neighbouring country.

Rao said the government has identified Alexandria inEgypt as a port of call for ships required for the evacuationexercise. (more) PTI SKU PYK

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