Exiles appeal to Mubarak

Salloum, Egypt - Palestinians ordered out of Libya and forcibly encamped on the border with Egypt appealed to President Hosni Mubarak yesterday to help them to go home.

Khaled Abou el-Nil and Sami el-Maghrabi, acting on behalf of about 200 of their stranded compatriots, handed the written appeal to Egyptian state security officers through the barbed wire fence which marks the desert border. They said the people in the camp were also planning a demonstration to highlight their request to go to the self-rule areas of Gaza and the West Bank.

"We are appealing to the world to find a just solution to our problem," said Mr Abou el-Nil, a merchant who arrived at the makeshift camp.

"Where can we go? Maybe the best solution is for the world to dig us a hole and bury us in it."

The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who calls the PLO-Israeli peace deal a capitulation to the Jewish state, has ordered the expulsion of some 6,000 Palestinians over the past three months in protest.

Since Thursday, when Israel and the Palestinians signed a deal expanding Palestinian self-rule to much of the West Bank, expulsions have accelerated.

The rubbish-strewn camp, hemmed in by barbed wire and Libyan security officials, was set up on Libyan soil to shelter the deportees. Three of the 100 tents have been made into a hospital, a school and a mosque.

Mr Maghrabi said the Libyans were setting up more military tents for the hundreds expected to arrive at the scorpion-infested site in the coming days. Groups stuck at the border last month said they were reduced to begging for food from travellers. Water is also scarce.

Egypt is reluctant to accept expelled Palestinians unless they have travel papers for Jordan, Gaza or the West Bank. Other Arab countries adopt a similar policy.