New Zealand ready to send military planes to Egypt

14:10, January 31, 2011      

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that the government may consider using Defence Force planes to get New Zealanders out of Egypt if the situation worsens.

Egypt is in a continuing state of crisis as anti-government protesters determined to end the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak throng the center of Cairo.

Six days of protests have left 100 people dead and thousands injured in several cities.

The New Zealand embassy in Cairo has been unable to reopen after the demonstrations.

Key said the government was urging New Zealanders in Egypt to leave and providing whatever support it can.

He said using Defence Force planes is an option if the government thinks it needs too, but it has not yet been advised this is the case.

The Air Force 757s are in action and can be used if necessary.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said the ground floor of the New Zealand embassy in Cairo was damaged during the protests and the building has no electricity.

Staff are working from ambassador Rene Wilson's residence.

Wilson said New Zealand troops stationed on the Sinai peninsula near the Egypt-Israel border have been confined to barracks by Egyptian authorities as a result of the protests.

The commander of the multinational force in place to monitor the 1973 peace agreement between the Egypt and Israel is a New Zealander and 28 New Zealand troops are serving in the force.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has upgraded its travel warning to Egypt, advising New Zealanders against all travel to the country. Nearly 295 New Zealanders have registered with its Safe Travel website.

MFAT said there is an extreme risk to security. It advises those who are already in the country to avoid areas where protests may occur, exercise caution in public places and maintain a high level of personal security awareness.

Source: Xinhua

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