Lebanese air bridge for citizens fleeing Ivory Coast: France

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Lebanon has set up an air bridge to ferry its citizens out of war-torn Ivory Coast and on to Beirut, the French foreign ministry said Friday, announcing the creation of a crisis coordination cell.

A fleet of medium-sized planes will fly Lebanese citizens from Abidjan airport, which is now controlled by French troops, to neighbouring Ghana's capital Accra, where they will be transferred to Lebanese airliners.

"It's going to begin in the next few moments," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero, briefing reporters in Paris on the latest measures to secure foreign citizens living in Ivory Coast.

Valero did not say how many Lebanese citizens were expected to make use of the air bridge, but 80,000 are thought to live in Ivory Coast, many of them long-term expatriates and some of them born in West Africa.

Several hundred have taken refuge in a French military base in Abidjan during the latest round of clashes between forces loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo and internationally-recognised leader Alassane Ouattara.

© 2011 AFP

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