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Australians harassed on way to airport

Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday February 5, 2011

Kirsty Needham and agencies

AUSTRALIAN embassy officials have been stopped by vigilantes, and taken away by police, as they tried to reach Cairo's airport.The Australian ambassador, Stephanie Shwabsky, intervened to gain the release of eight officials from a Cairo police station yesterday. The escalating danger has stopped a group of 24 Australians holed up in the Conrad Hotel from boarding a second evacuation flight.The Qantas flight, already delayed a day by mechanical problems, left Cairo at 4.15pm Sydney time yesterday with more than 100 Australians. Eleven Australians were unable to join the flight because of actions by Egyptian authorities.Two young men were stopped from boarding the plane because they were Australian-Egyptian dual nationals of military service age.A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government was making representations on their behalf. "Dual nationals are treated as Egyptians and authorities can require an exemption certificate before allowing male dual nationals to leave Egypt," she said.Another person was stopped from leaving by the authorities because of an invalid visa.The United Nations has begun evacuating much of its staff in Egypt, adding to the foreign exodus. The UN said nearly 300 staff in Egypt and their families were flown to Cyprus on two flights on Thursday. A third flight would bring another 100 UN staff and their dependents, said a spokesman, Rolando Gomez. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, pictured, on Thursday condemned violence against protesters and called for a political new beginning in the country.

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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