France evacuates people from Lebanon
PARIS, July 17, 2006 (AFP) - France hopes to evacuate 1,250 people - from France, other Europen countries and North America - on board a ferry due to dock in Beirut Monday, the foreign ministry said in Paris.
The Iera Petra should take on 800 French nationals, including 300 children, 400 from other European countries and 50 US citizens before heading back to Cyprus, spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.
“This first mission will take out the most urgent cases – children, the elderly and the sick. The ferry will return for further shuttles in the days ahead,” he said.
The operation was being organised in liaison with the Lebanese authorities and Israel was being kept informed, he said.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was going to Beirut Monday to express France’s support for the Lebanese people in the face of Israeli attacks, President Jacques Chirac’s office said.
Chirac, currently attending the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg, “has decided to send the prime minister to Beirut today to meet Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and convey to him the support of France and the solidarity of the French people with the Lebanese people in their ordeal,” the president’s office said in a statement.
Beirut and southern Lebanon in particular have suffered punishing raids by the Israeli air force following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Lebanon’s Hezbollah Shiite militia, who have also fired rockets at Israeli towns.
Villepin was meeting Monday with Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie before heading to Beirut and returning later in the day.
He is the first foreign head of government to visit Beirut since the crisis broke last week.
Subject: French News