PM vow on Libya Britons evacuation

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Indy Politics

David Cameron insisted today the Government was doing "everything we can" to help British nationals escape chaos-hit Libya.

Amid criticism of the Foreign Office's response to the crisis, the Prime Minister said officials were working around the clock to facilitate the evacuation.

At a press conference in Qatar this morning, Mr Cameron said: "There will be planes and ferries and other means to get people out of Libya and we will do everything we can to make that happen.

"Obviously it is a very difficult situation.

"I don't want to give details of the exact plane arrival times or what ships and when, but we are doing everything we can to make sure we get people out and there are all sorts of different means that we can use to make sure that happens."

The Foreign Office is chartering a flight to get British nationals out of the country and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Cumberland is being redeployed to waters near Libya.

But a UK oil worker hoping to fly home criticised the response this morning, saying he and colleagues had been left without protection.

James Coyle, who is based between the capital Tripoli and second city Benghazi, said: "We are living a nightmare and we have asked the British Government and they have just totally ignored us.

"They don't reply to emails, they have cut off the phones to Tripoli. We told them the situation three days ago - they never even replied to us.

"We have been left without any protection whatsoever."

He added: "We are living every day in fear of our lives as the local people are armed with AK45s and AK47s."

Hundreds of Libyans have been killed in violent clashes between anti-government protesters and forces loyal to dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in recent days.

Colonel Gaddafi sparked fears that violence would spiral further last night when he vowed to fight to his "last drop of blood" and urged his supporters to take to the streets.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the Government seemed to have been "slow off the mark" in responding to the turmoil in Libya.

"I welcome the deployment of HMS Cumberland and the sending of a charter plane to Libya to help British nationals there," he said.

"But it is concerning that it is only getting under way now, as reports suggest some airports are already badly damaged and there have been air space closures.

"William Hague should explain why the Government appears to have been slow off the mark when other countries have already repatriated a large number of their citizens."

During a question and answer session with students at Qatar University, Mr Cameron said there should be "consequences" for the Libyan regime if it continued to use "appalling levels of violence" against its own people.

The Prime Minister drew a comparison with the international action taken in Serbia and Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia.

"We do have a duty to protect people," he said.

"Should there be rules and consequences if this sort of aggression continues? Yes. Are there examples in the past where the world has said this sort of activity against your own people is unacceptable? Also yes.

"That was the case both with relation to Serbia and also with relation to Kosovo."

Mr Cameron said he would like to see a United Nations Security Council resolution to send "a very clear warning" to Col Gaddafi and the Libyan armed forces that what they were doing was "wrong and against the law".

"It would be better if the world could move ahead as one and this could be done through the UN Security Council. That is the best way. I hope we will be making further steps over the coming days to make that clear," he said.