Libya: Maltese wishing to stay urged to change their mind

Libya: Maltese wishing to stay urged to change their mind

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi this morning inspected harbour reception facilities at a Brazilian-chartered ferry arrived with 2,000 workers from Libya, and he strongly insisted that all Maltese currently in the Tripoli area should board the Maltese catamarans currently in harbour. They are due to leave this evening.

Dr Gonzi said that 33 Maltese were saying they did not wish to leave, and the government was again urging them to change their minds.

He said the government was seeking other solutions for Maltese in other areas of Libya.

Dr Gonzi thanked personnel working at Grand Harbour, including medical personnel and members of the Red Cross Society.

He said the workers who had arrived in Malta had gone through a traumatic situation as well as a difficult trip, and Malta would seek to make them as comfortable as possible.

Dr Gonzi was in turn thanked by the Brazilian ambassador and company officials.

The rescued workers cheered as the MV Toscana berthed at the Valletta Waterfront. Apart from the Brazilians, workers from 33 other nations were board. They are expected to stay onboard until they are taken to the airport for flights to their countries.

A second ferry is due in harbour in the afternoon. It will be the second of four Chinese-chartered ships expected in Malta over the coming days.

Meanwhile, the two Maltese catamarans at Tripoli harbour were due to have left yesterday afternoon, but have stayed alongside because of rough seas.

Henri Saliba, managing director of Virtu Ferries, told the media that the catamaran San Gwann is accepting anyone who wants to board and is almost at capacity with more than 400 passengers. The Maria Dolores has been chartered by a private company and has some 90 passengers on board.

They started taking passengers yesterday afternoon but Libyan police only let people board in a trickle. Mr Saliba said the ferries hope to leave Tripoli this evening and arrive in Valletta tomorrow morning.

He said the port in Tripoli is currently safe and calm.

Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency, citing Russia's Emergencies Ministry, reported that the ferry St Stephan had docked in the Libyan port of Ras Lanuf, where it is to take aboard 1,126 evacuees, among them 124 Russians.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by telephone with Musa Kousa, secretary of Libya's General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Co-operation, who "gave assurances that the Libyan authorities would continue rendering all necessary assistance to completing the evacuation of Russian citizens from Libya and provide security for Russian diplomats in Tripoli".

ITAR-Tass, citing the Ukrainian foreign ministry, said a plane carrying 185 evacuees, 122 of them Ukrainian, landed today at Boryspil Airport in Kiev.

In a bold and secret rescue mission on Saturday, British military planes entered Libyan air space and picked up oil workers and others from desert locations. The frigate HMS Cumberland is also returning to the Libyan port of Benghazi to pick up people waiting there.

More than 2,800 Chinese workers landed in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete aboard a Greek ship on Saturday. Further to the west, another 2,200 Chinese arrived in Valletta after a long journey from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi. Hours earlier, in the dark of night, a US-chartered ferry dropped off over 300 passengers in Valletta who spent three days waiting to leave Libya's chaotic capital.

The sheer numbers of foreigners leaving Libya as Muammar Gaddafi's regime attacks anti-government protesters has been staggering. As of Saturday, at least 16,000 Chinese, 15,000 Turks and 1,400 Italians had been evacuated, most working in the construction and oil industries.

In addition, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that some 22,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia and another 15,000 crossed the border into Egypt.

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