Amid the escalating violence in Libya, humanitarian aid should be the priority instead of military action to topple Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, the French government said March 1.
>> Aid Groups Scale Up Response to Humanitarian Crisis in Libya
“The priority is humanitarian aid, it’s no longer diplomacy,” French government spokesman Francois Baroin said in an interview on France 2 television, when asked about the possibility of tapping military efforts to oust Gadhafi.
The statement came as the U.S. government announced it was moving ships and planes closer to Libya.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he had instructed the deployment of several Navy ships to the Mediterranean, as well as 400 Marines.
“The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce will be entering the Mediterranean shortly, and will provide for us a capacity for both emergency evacuations and also for humanitarian relief,” Gates was quoted by Stars and Stripes as saying.
France and the U.K., Reuters reports, are calling for an emergency European Union summit to discuss the political revolt in Libya, possibly as early as this week, while Italy has pledged to send a humanitarian mission to Tunisia to provide food and medical aid to people fleeing the revolt in Libya.
Some 100,000 people have already fled Libya for neighboring Egypt and Tunisia due to political violence, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration issued March 1 a joint appeal for the massive humanitarian evacuation of third country nationals in Libya. The two have established a joint humanitarian evacuation program to address the humanitarian crisis at the border of Tunisia, Reuters reports.
Another U.N. agency, the World Food Program, said the Libyan unrest has cut off an aid supply route that facilitates the provision of food assistance to Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians in eastern Chad.
“WFP used the Libya corridor for about 40 percent of its food aid to Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadians,” Jean-Luc Siblot, WFP representative in Chad, told IRIN.
WFP is now working to re-establish a supply route from Port Sudan to Abéché, the humanitarian hub of eastern Chad.
Australia, meanwhile is providing 6 million Australian dollars ($6.1 million) to deliver emergency medical assistance and shelter to those fleeing the crisis in Libya.
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