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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The money game

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Only $2000 a seat, no that's for Americans

Note: the post originally here was pulled on orders of Commandant Kos. Seriously, it will be appearing on Firedoglake tommorow as a favor to Christy and Jane. Since it will appear later in the day, I will crost post it after it goes up there.

U.S. set to ferry Americans from Lebanon

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer 1 hour, 42 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - By air and increasingly by sea, an evacuation is under way to take Americans out of danger in Lebanon.

An estimated 25,000 Americans are there. Some 15,000 have registered with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, but evidently not all are trying to get out.

"Our planning assumptions are on the order of thousands," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday. "You don't actually know how many people are going to want to leave until you actually start the larger-scale operations."

The operation began slowly. By late Monday only 64 were known to have departed.

U.S. government officials, basing their estimates on similar situations in the past, say the range of Americans planning to leave could range from 10 percent of those in the country up to 100 percent.

Most other countries have a far less difficult evacuation task since they have fewer of their people in Lebanon. Convoys of buses have been used effectively.

The U.S. government is discouraging travel by land to the Lebanon-
Syria border. Two of the three major roads have been bombed severely, Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, told CNN. And Syria denied entry to some Americans who got to the border.

"We did not think that was a wise way to counsel people to leave the country," she said.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said a commercial ship, the Orient Queen, had been contracted to ferry evacuating Americans to Cyprus. He said it could carry 750 people at a time. A U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Gonzales, will be available to escort the Orient Queen, he said.

The French lent a hand. In Paris, the foreign ministry said 50 U.S. citizens were evacuated with 800 French citizens and 400 other Europeans on a Greek ferry, Iera Petra, chartered by the French government.

Most of the first Americans to depart were removed by U.S. helicopters, some of which flew to a British base on Cyprus.

At the State Department, McCormack said the cost of a massive evacuation was beyond U.S. resources. He said evacuated Americans would be asked to pay commercial rates, and if they did not have the money, to promise to pay in the future.

"Everybody who wishes to leave will be able to leave," he promised.

The U.S. Embassy advised Americans to carry a valid passport, a birth certificate and marriage or other civil documents. Each traveler is limited to one suitcase weighing up to 30 pounds. Pets will not be allowed to travel.

posted by Steve @ 3:14:00 AM

3:14:00 AM

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