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Romania

Capital Bucureşti
Time Zone EEST (GMT+2)
Country Code 40
Mobile Codes 71,72,73,74,75,76,77,78
ccTLD .ro
Currency Leu nou (1EUR = 4.1 RON)
Land Area 238,391 sq km
Population 22 million
Language Romanian
Major Religion Orthodox Christianity

Romania to Evacuate Citizens from Libya in Special Flight

Note: the below article has been modified since initial publication. Due to a change in the operation, a military plan was used instead of a civilian one, and the evacuation also occurred later in the day than originally planned.

By Chris Deliso in Skopje

A Boeing 737 aircraft will depart from Bucharest at 11AM Thursday morning in order to recover several hundred Romanian citizens stranded in Libya, and will return by 3:30PM, Balkanalysis.com can report.

With the longtime rule of Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi appearing to be close to a violent end,  world governments have switched into high gear to launch cooperative evacuation plans for their citizens. Balkan nations have taken the initiative themselves, and in some cases are benefiting from the goodwill of other nations.

With the east of Libya apparently out of the legendary dictator’s control, and pro-Qaddafi supporters trying to stamp out protests, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has warned that “death squads” loyal to Qaddafi  are responsible for perhaps over 1,000 dead. Frattini also warned that the upheaval could well lead to an Islamist breakaway state in the east and a flood of refugees into Western Europe.

Citizens of foreign countries are fleeing Libya apparently even faster than they did Egypt, where civil unrest towards the Mubarak regime several weeks ago led to an exodus. Balkan countries have relatively small numbers of citizens in Libya at the time with the exception of Turkey, which has about 25,000 nationals in the North African state, most of them involved in the construction industry.

According to Reuters, approximately 3,000 Turks were evacuated from Beghazi on two ferries early on Wednesday. Further, reported the news agency, a Bosnian plane with “the first group of up to 1,500 Bosnian citizens” to be evacuated was awaiting a permit from authorities in Tripoli, stated assistant foreign minister Zoran Perkovic. Macedonia has stated it will work together with Bosnia to evacuate its citizens, cost being cited as a factor in the Macedonian media.

Also, a Bulgaria Air plane arrived in Sofia from Tripoli early Wednesday carrying 110 Bulgarians and six Romanians, and another plane sent by the Bulgarian government aircraft will also be carrying 70 Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian citizens, among others. Further, Reuters cited Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic in reporting that 145 Croatian citizens working in Libya had been evacuated. Meanwhile, a Greek cargo ship was dispatched to collect some of the 330 Greeks living in Libya.

According to Reuters, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said on Wednesday that “around 450 Romanians are still in Libya and around 80 have already been repatriated.”

Balkanalysis.com has learned further information about the Bucharest government’s evacuation plan. The Thursday morning flight finally agreed upon was the final result of a hectic process involving officials in several countries, with the timing changing several times. According to one official involved with planning the rescue, “there was some uncertainty- it could have been either earlier today, tonight, or later, but first the overflight rights had to be agreed.”

As is the case with other evacuating countries, coordination of movements has to happen with protocol requests for movements across national airspaces for these unexpected flights. The Romanian officials had to liaise with the foreign ministries of several countries in order to get their 737 plane on track for tomorrow morning.

Therefore, Romanian diplomats were putting efforts in throughout Wednesday in overflight permission requests from the foreign ministries of the countries involved. These countries are those which will be used for the flight path of the Romanian plane- Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Italy and Malta, according to the official.

Malta, situated across from Libya in the Mediterranean Sea, is on full alert now. Security forces deployed to physically prevent a plane believed to be carrying Col. Qaddafi’s daughter from landing at Valetta Airport two hours ago.

This follows the defection of two Libyan Air Force pilots who landed in the usually quiet island on Monday after claiming to have disobeyed orders to bomb civilian protesters.

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