Spain prepares to temporarily close its embassy in Libya

March 2nd, 2011 - 12:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, March 2 (IANS/EFE) Spain’s foreign minister announced Tuesday that Madrid is preparing to temporarily close its embassy in Libya amid continuing strife in the North African country.

In remarks to journalists, Trinidad Jimenez confirmed that the ambassador, guards and the rest of the personnel will return to Spain once the evacuation of five Spaniards presently aboard a cargo ship is complete.

“As long as these Spaniards cannot leave the country, the embassy personnel will not return to Spain,” said Jimenez upon completing her appearance before a Senate committee.

The minister said that the return of Ambassador Luis Francisco Garcia Cerezo does not mean the definitive closure of the diplomatic office in Tripoli, since it will still be staffed by local personnel.

A total of 15 Spanish nationals remain at the embassy in Tripoli.

Countries such as the US, France and Germany made the decision to close their embassies in Tripoli in recent days.

The five Spaniards on the cargo ship work for Mexican cement-maker Cemex, and there are also employees from other countries on the payroll.

Jimenez said the Spaniards already have permission to leave the ship, but they are waiting for the last bureaucratic procedures to be completed so that they can deliver the cargo.

Only a few Spaniards who are married to Libyan citizens have opted to remain in the country.

In her appearance before the Senate committee, Jimenez defended the way in which her ministry and the embassy have undertaken the evacuation of Spaniards from Libya, despite the criticism they have received from some of them.

While acknowledging that “everything can always be done better”, the minister praised the “promptness and professionalism” with which the repatriation operation has been carried out.

The Spanish government repatriated 150 of its citizens in an airplane it sent from Madrid and Spain-based energy giant Repsol YPF provided another to evacuate 61 people.

In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, the minister said that Spain’s embassies in those countries had to handle the departure of 3,000 Spanish nationals in all, most of them tourists.

–IANS/EFE
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