(photo credit: Channel 2)
France is putting in place a special ferry to evacuate its citizens in Lebanon who wish to leave starting on Sunday, the foreign minister said.
The ferry will transport to Cyprus any of the thousands of French who want out of Lebanon following recent IDF attacks on Hizbullah targets in response to the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers on Wednesday. Special Air France flights will bring evacuees to Paris from Cyprus, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Saturday.
Some 17,000 French citizens reside in Lebanon and 4,000 to 6,000 others are visiting, Douste-Blazy said on France-Info radio.
"We want to take all the necessary measures for the security of our citizens," Villepin said at the close of the crisis meeting. The government would evaluate the situation in Lebanon "hour by hour" to adapt measures if needed, he said, without raising the possibility of a full-fledged evacuation.
Germany, meanwhile, called for a halt to the "spiral of violence" in the Middle East and urged its citizens in Lebanon to lie low.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora agreed in a telephone conversation on Saturday to push for a return to calm, Steinmeier's ministry said.
Steinmeier addressed an "urgent appeal to all powers in the region who are involved to now make an active contribution to de-escalation," the ministry said.
"It is necessary to break the spiral of violence," he said.
Steinmeier also spoke to his counterparts in Israel, Egypt and Syria on Thursday and Friday, the Foreign Ministry said.
It also urged some 1,100 German citizens in Lebanon to stay put and avoid unnecessary travel and potential targets, including airports and harbors.
Asked if Berlin was preparing to evacuate its citizens, a ministry spokeswoman said diplomats were monitoring the situation closely and that European Union embassies in the country were in close contact. The ministry said it was preparing for all possible scenarios.