Governments Move Citizens Out Of Libya

As Libya becomes increasingly chaotic and dangerous, the U.S. government and its counterparts in Europe are quickly evacuating their citizens.

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The U.S. government is considering all options to press Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi to end a brutal crackdown on protesters. The U.S. and the United Nations have condemned the bloodshed but have had a hard time backing up words with action. That's in part because so many Americans and other foreign nationals are still trapped inside Libya, and priority number one is getting them out.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's working with others in the international community to help end the bloodshed in Libya.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): First, we have to get the international community together because there is no doubt in my mind that this is now the moment for the international community to act together.

KELEMEN: And Clinton told reporters at the State Department today: Everything is on the table.

Sec. CLINTON: We will look at all the possible options to try to bring an end to the violence, to try to influence the government.

KELEMEN: But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to rule out one possibility a no-fly zone to prevent Libyan planes and helicopters from attacking civilians.

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Assistant Secretary, U.S. State Department): That is a very difficult thing to actually perform.

KELEMEN: Both he and Secretary Clinton say the first priority is to help stranded Americans, nonessential diplomats and families of embassy workers were ordered out on Monday, but it took until today to get 35 of them on a ferry, along with other Americans and foreign nationals.

Crowley says the ferry was delayed in part because Libyan authorities had to stamp the passports of everyone leaving. He says the U.S. has also had trouble getting charter flights out of Libya.

Mr. CROWLEY: We have not yet received permission to land charter aircraft in Libya, but, like I say, today, the system is creeping along.

KELEMEN: In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague says he wouldn't rule out the possibility of sending in military flights without permission to Libya to evacuate British nationals, though, he said that would be riskier for everyone. His government has been sending charters to Tripoli, but he expressed deep concern about British oil sector workers who live in the Libyan desert.

Mr. WILLIAM HAGUE (British Foreign Secretary): These camps are remote. They're isolated. They are scattered over a large distance. They are dependent for food, on water, on supplies from Libyan cities that have been severely disrupted by the violence and unrest. And some we know have been subjected to attacks and to looting. They are in a perilous and frightening situation.

KELEMEN: The British foreign secretary says he's working with other countries that have citizens out in the Libyan desert, and everyone realizes that the situation is more complex than it was in Tunisia or Egypt.

Mr. HAGUE: In those countries, there were large protests but chiefly in the urban areas. In Libya, what is happening is civil strife - a country split geographically in two, split between government and people and with a widespread breakdown of law and order.

KELEMEN: Egyptians and Tunisians have been pouring out of Libya over land, while Chinese workers fled by land, sea and air. Turkey's foreign minister says his country is carrying out its biggest evacuation ever. Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, who was at the State Department today, says he's encouraged by his country's evacuation efforts.

Mr. ANTONIO PATRIOTA (Brazilian Foreign Minister): It is a positive feature within a very complex, problematic situation that so far we have not witnessed violence against foreigners in Libya.

KELEMEN: Brazilians who are there have been working on infrastructure projects, he says, including expanding the airport in Tripoli.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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