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No- M24 Date 10 February 1984 ■ -' ' o * + ■ -

BEIRUT EMBASSY STAFF. - t .

The M i n i s t e r f o r Foreign A f f a i r s / Mr B i l l Haydenz M.P.z said today t h a t A u s t ra li a n s t a f f - o f the mission in B e i r u t have- been s a f e t y - evacuated from Lebanon by B r i t i s h m i l i t a r y h e l i c o p t e r s . The s t a f f members a re: Perry Nolan/ John McAnulty and his w if e M i c h e l l e / and J i l l Mortimer. They are p re s e n t ly in Cyprus and are f i t and w e l l in s p i t e of

having been through a g r u e l l i n g and tense ex per ience . ~

"They have discharged t h e i r d u ti e s in extremely d i f f i c u l t circumstances with great f o r t i t u d e and commendable d e d i c a t i o n . I am sure t h a t a l l A u s tr a lia n s are proud of t h e i r e f f o r t s / " Mr Hayden s a i d .

Mr Hayden e s p e c i a l l y commended the Embassy's e f f o r t s i n looking a f t e r the i n t e r e s t s o f A u s t ra li a n c i t i z e n s / r i g h t up to the l a s t minute of de p a rtu re . Throughout the recent months when the s e c u r i t y s i t u a t i o n in B e ir u t had been pr o g re s s i v e ly d e t e r i o r a t i n g / Embassy o f f i c e r s had continued to ca rry out t h e i r consular r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s o f te n a t considerable personal

r i s k . This had been p a r t i c u l a r l y so during the past few days/ when an in te n s iv e e f f o r t had been made to reach as many c i t i z e n s as p o s s i b le .

Mr Hayden s a i d / " I am e s p e c i a l l y g r a t e f u l to the B r i t i s h a u t h o r i t i e s and t h e i r armed services f o r the generous s p i r i t of he lpf ulne ss which re s u lt e d in t h i s successful evacuati on. I have alre a dy conveyed my ap p rec ia ti o n to the B r i t i s h Foreign M i n i s t e r / S i r Geoffrey Howe. I am sure the Prime M i n i s t e r - who has been kept c o ns ta nt ly informed - w i l l be contacting the B r i t i s h Prime M i n i s t e r to express the Government's g r a t i t u d e f o r the help of the B r i t i s h . The in v a lu a b l e assistance of the B r i t i s h should not be underestimated.

"Two e a r l i e r attempts to evacuate s t a f f f a i l e d ; f i r s t by sea because of rocket and g u n f i re in the harbour area making the exercise unacceptably hazardous; and the second by road/ because of the f a i l u r e to nego tiat e a safe passage with a l l f a c t i o n s in p o s i t i o n along the route and the concurrent dis clo su re t h a t key pa rt s of the road had been mined.

"The s i t u a t i o n in B e ir u t worsens by the day. Because of the sudden/ unexpected and rapid collapse of the s i t u a t i o n in B e i r u t i t became e s s e n t i a l t h a t our s t a f f be evacuated from there as soon as p o s s i b l e . At the same ti m e / i t was necessary to avoid r a i s i n g hopes and then r i s k c r e a t in g understandable f e a rs by announcing evacuation plans prematurely which might

subsequently f a i l / as indeed did eventuate on the two occasions I mentioned. There was also a need to t r y to maintain s e c u r i t y about any proposed evacuation which i s no easy matter in B e i r u t at the best o f times and i s almost impossible in circumstances l i k e those at the pr e s e n t . Premature d i s c lo s u re of evacuation arrangements might have created some r i s k f o r the p l a n .

" I mention these fa c t o rs because i t i s a matter of r e g r e t to me t h a t I have not been able to communicate more f u l l y on these matters e a r l i e r but on the other hand I am sure t h a t i s understood in the circumstances."

Perry Nolan/ John McAnulty and J i l l Mortimer w i l l re tu rn to A u s t r a l i a as soon as possible f o r d e b r i e f i n g at the Department of Foreign A f f a i r s / Canberra/ f o r some r es t and recuperation and f o r reunion with t h e i r f a m i l i e s .