NEWS

US praises Greece for Libya evacuations

A visiting US State Department official on Wednesday conveyed Washington?s praise for Greece?s active role in evacuating thousands of foreign nationals from Libya, where pro-democracy protesters continue to clash with supporters of Colonel Muammar Ghadafi.

?Greece has helped a lot,? Philip Gordon, assistant secretary for Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said following talks with Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.

Gordon referred to ?military assistance? offered by Greece, but it remained unclear if he meant the scheduled arrival of six US war ships at Crete?s Souda Bay.

Gordon noted that, apart from the frigates dispatched by the Hellenic Navy to patrol waters off the coast of Libya, Greece had played a major role on a humanitarian level as well, dispatching ferries to evacuate thousands of foreign nationals from Libya – citizens of European countries, thousands of Chinese and smaller numbers of Brazilians and Filipinos.

Gordon also praised Greece for taking ?difficult and courageous steps? to resuscitate its debt-ridden economy and emphasized that Greece?s geostrategic importance had increased following recent developments in the eastern Mediterranean.

On Wednesday, another Greek passenger ferry docked at the Cretan port of Iraklio with 2,146 Chinese evacuees from Libya. Another Greek vessel, the Ionian Queen, arrived at the same port later in the day with 665 Filipino nationals on board.

Amid concerns by authorities that some of the Filipinos might try to stay in Greece illegally, police were dispatched to guard the hotel to which they were taken. Crete?s regional governor, Athanassios Karountzos, and the Philippine Ambassador to Syria, Wilfredo Cuyugan, met in Iraklio on Wednesday to discuss the repatriation of the Filipinos as soon as possible.