Mar 22, 2003

Malaysia awaits evacuation order: report

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) Mar 22, 2003
A rescue operation to evacuate Malaysians from countries bordering Iraq will begin as soon as the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) gets airspace clearance, local media said Saturday.
Codenamed 'Operation Stingray', the operation would see RMAF Hercules C130 military transporters flying into Kuwait, Syria, Iran, Jordan and Bahrain, the New Straits Times said.
"The planes will hug the coastline so this will take an estimated six hours instead of the usual two hours if they were to fly straight there," a source close to the operation was quoted as saying by the English language daily.
"They will most likely be provided escort by US jet fighters right up to the airport," the source said.
There are now 2,565 Malaysians in countries neighbouring Iraq, the daily said.
Malaysia's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Syed Hussein Al Habshee said Bahrain and Kuwait had given the green light for RMAF transport planes to fly over their respective airspace and land in Kuwait City to pick up the Malaysians.
"However, we cannot leave until we get clearance from the US forces stationed in Kuwait," Syed Hussein was quoted as saying by the Star.
"All three of our C-130 planes are fuelled and ready at the Dubai International Airport. As soon as we get the green light, we will take off for Kuwait," RMAF mission commander Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim Hashim was quoted as saying.
Kuwait would take priority over other Middle East countries because it was under attack from Iraq, he said.
Land routes would be used if an airborne evacuation had to be ended, he said.