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Africa

France sends three planes to evacuate nationals from Libya

media A French-made Mirage jet on the tarmac in Malta after its pilot defected Borg Cardona / AFP

France is sending three air force planes to the Libyan capital Tripoli to evacuate its nationals from the country, Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said on Tuesday.

"To ensure our compatriots' security in the context of violence in Libya over these last days, the government has decided to proceed today with the repatriation of those whose presence is not essential," Alliot-Marie said in a statement.

Hundreds of people have been killed, according to rights groups, in this month’s uprising against Moamer Kardhafi’s rule and countries and companies have been evacuating their nationals.

Around 750 French citizens normally live in Libya, with between 500 and 550 currently present, according to a foreign ministry estimate.

Sources at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport told the AFP news agency that three planes were on standby, two destined for Tripoli and one for Sabha, in the desert around 700 kilometres south of the Libyan capital.

The planes can evacuate between 300 and 700 people, the sources said.

On Monday two fighter planes and two civilian helicopters landed on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The seven people on board the helicopters claimed to be French citizens working on oil rigs near the revolt-hit city of Benghazi, although only one had a passport.

The fighter plane pilots said they had deserted to avoid firing on protesters.
 

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