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Australians in Lebanon taken to Syria by bus -

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Australians in Lebanon taken to Syria by bus

AM - Tuesday, 18 July , 2006 08:08:00

Reporter: Lynn Bell

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government plans to get more Australians out of Lebanon by bus, after a
successful mission yesterday which saw 86 stranded Australians taken by road to Syria.

The convoy of three buses left late yesterday travelling via the coast road to the Syrian border
and it's now arrived safely in Jordan.

The Federal Government is also hoping to charter a ship tomorrow to get hundreds more Australians
out of Beirut.

Lynn Bell reports.

LYNN BELL: The three busloads of Australians travelled safely from Beirut to the Syrian border last
night, where they spent about two hours, before moving on to Damascus.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says the Government will try to repeat the exercise
today, by the same, or by a different route, but he notes that it is hazardous to move people
across Lebanon.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: There are risks in staying put, there are risks involved in taking transport -
transport and communications are being very much targeted by the Israelis.

LYNN BELL: But Mr Downer says Israel is being kept informed about the Government's plans to
evacuate Australian citizens.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I spoke, myself, with the Israeli Foreign Minister and I said to her that we had
these evacuation plans and she has said that we should keep in touch with her and her department in
particular about the evacuation plans and she'll continue to make sure that the Israeli Defence
Force is aware of the evacuation plans.

LYNN BELL: 20-year-old Joseph and 18-year-old Mark Diodarty were among the 86 Australians who were
evacuated to Syria. They had been stranded in Beirut with the Sevan Dance Group from Sydney.

Their mother, Rosemary Diodarty, received a phone call last night, informing her that her sons were
safe.

ROSEMARY DIODARTY: I'd just left work and I got wonderful news that my children had ... (starts to
cry) sorry... they'd left Lebanon. They've actually hit the Syrian border. We're elated, I've got my
brothers here, I've got my... some neighbours have popped in, good friends of mine. We're just so
happy.

LYNN BELL: She was in touch with her eldest son just before he got on the bus, and she says he was
worried about the trip to Syria.

ROSEMARY DIODARTY: And basically, he was saying mum, do you think this evacuation is a good thing?
I'm not happy with it. We're frightened. What happens to us? What if either parties shoot us, you
know?

And I said Joseph, don't worry, the Government will be 100 per cent sure before they'd do anything,
before they'd move you out.

LYNN BELL: Alexander Downer has asked Australians who are stuck in Lebanon not to rush the Embassy
in Beirut.

Instead, he says people in Australia should tell the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra
about their family members who want to leave Lebanon.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: They must register these people with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
and make sure in them having been registered that those people stay put, and the Embassy in Beirut
will contact them when there's the opportunity to take them out.

LYNN BELL: Mr Downer says the Government is also hoping to charter a ship that would travel from
Cyprus to Lebanon on Wednesday.

The ship could take as many as 600 Australians out of Beirut, but the Foreign Minister says the
number of Australian citizens who want to leave Lebanon is still unclear.

TONY EASTLEY: Lynn Bell.