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Ethiopia begins evacuating 170 citizens from Libya

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 6, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) - The Ethiopian government has begun evacuating its nationals from the violence in Libya through the Sudanese Embassy in Tripoli, Ethiopia’s the ministry of foreign affairs said.

Many Ethiopians have been trapped during the weeks of rebellion against the forty year rule of Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The Sudanese Embassy in the Libyan capital has registered Ethiopian citizens to be repatriated. Ethiopia does not have an embassy in Libya.

According to the ministry, a first group of 170 Ethiopians have left Libya’s Kufra town by land transport. They were expected to arrive on Sunday in the Sudanese town of Dongola, over 500km from the Libyan border.

The ministry has earlier urged Ethiopian families here to report if they have members in the North African country and accordingly, the ministry has compiled reports for 344 citizens and forwarded the data to Ethiopian embassies in Khartoum and Cairo for follow up to ensure their return.

The rescue operation is being carried out in collaboration with Sudanese embassies based in the capital Tripoli, Benghazi and other towns.

There are fears that the rebellion, which has seen anti-Gadaffi demonstrators take control of most of eastern Libya, could turn into a full-scale civil war. The situation has driven a number of countries to evacuate their citizens in airlifts and by sea. Some countries have also conducted rescue operations using their military to evacuate their citizens.

The Libyan leader, who has remained defiant, is facing intense international pressure to step down.

The secretary and members of the Libyan People’s bureau and permanent mission to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia this week condemned the use of excessive force and mercenaries against peaceful civilian protestors in Libya.

The U.N. Security Council last week unanimously imposed tough sanctions on the Gaddafi regime in the form of an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel ban.

It has also ordered an international war crimes probe into the bloodshed in Libya.

Similarly on Tuesday the general assembly suspended Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council for “gross and systematic” human rights violations in Gaddafi’s violent repression of protesters.

(ST)

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