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Sweden moves ahead with Libya evacuation

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Sweden moves ahead with Libya evacuation
A British C-130 at the airport in Malta
15:03 CET+01:00
A Swedish plane was expected to depart from Malta for Libya on Tuesday afternoon to help push evacuation plans forward following delays due to the collapse of air traffic control in Tripoli.

In Valleta, Malta's capital city, several airplanes, including a Swedish Hercules plane, sit and wait to fulfill the mission of evacuating Swedes and other foreigners from Libya.

But since air traffic control in Tripoli has broken down, it is difficult to obtain permission to land at the airport.

“The information we have so far is that the evacuation process in on-going. We have to expect delays – it's part of the picture,” Cecilia Julin, spokeswoman for the Swedish foreign ministry, told The Local.

Exactly when the Swedish plane can lift is unclear.

"You cannot get a landing permit in advance," Ulla Gudmundson, Swedish ambassador to Malta, told the TT news agency.

During the day, a group of diplomats, including one from the Swedish foreign ministry, flew to Tripoli to help organise evacuation efforts.

According to Julin, the Swedish diplomat was aboard an Italian plane which left Malta early Tuesday afternoon to help coordinate evacuation efforts.

“We expect our plane to be put into service later this afternoon. It's waiting its turn,” she added.

According foreign ministry spokesperson Joakim Larsson, there are a total of 47 Swedish citizens currently in Libya.

"We're in contact with everyone there, staff from the foreign ministry are calling them continuously. Thirty-seven want to stay, we're working on getting eight out, and one person wants to leave on their own," Larsson told TT.

Fifteen of the Swedes are said to be in Benghazi.

Four Swedish soldiers will accompany the Hercules plane, according to Sweden's Air Base Command.

“We do not know what to expect down there, and if things become unstable, they can provide security. They should simply be available if needed," Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) spokesperson Johan Lundgren told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Monday that the situation in Libya remains chaotic and unstable, noting that the Qaddafi era in Libya is over.

"But we still have Swedes there. The focus is on getting them out, " Reinfeldt told TT.

Sweden closed its embassy in Libya in 1995 and therefore Swedes have been asked to report to the German embassy for assistance in getting to the airport.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Joakim Larsson said that there are now 47 total Swedes confirmed in Libya. In the past week, 53 Swedes had left the country.

The Swedish Hercules plane, loaded with eight pallets of medical supplies in Sweden, has been unloaded in Malta. The supplies will now be transported by other means to Benghazi in eastern Libya.

"We hope the medical equipment will soon be on its way on a British ship," Gudmundson told the TT.

According to Swede Laila Säfström, who is in Tripoli, the city has been calm in recent days, the shops have been open sporadically and there are goods available for purchase.

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