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The first of 17 Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules for Canada. (Damien A. Guarnieri)
The first of 17 Lockheed Martin CC-130J Super Hercules for Canada. (Damien A. Guarnieri)

Libya blocks Canadian plane's attempt to remove oil workers Add to ...

A Canadian military Hercules transport, en route to pick up stranded oil workers, was turned back Tuesday from Libya.

A spokesman for the Ottawa-based overseas headquarters confirmed the C-130J was waved off about half way between Malta and the troubled north African nation.

The transport was headed into Tripoli.

"The reason for the denial is apparently due to a shortage of ramp space at Tripoli International Airport," said Maj. Andre Salloum, spokesman for Canadian Forces Expeditionary Command.

It's the latest in a string of setbacks for the Canadian evacuation effort.

A Canadian C-17 military transport was last week denied landing rights in Libya and sat on the tarmac in Rome before beginning flights over the weekend.

And at least two civilian aircraft chartered by the Foreign Affairs Department left the chaotic north African country with no passengers.

The empty Hercules, one of the newer models purchased by the Conservative government, has returned to Malta where the air force has stationed one other C-130 and two giant C-17 transport planes.

Maj. Salloum said another flight is scheduled for Wednesday.

A military reconnaissance team and combat medics are also in Malta, evaluating what else the military can deploy to aid in the evacuations.

It's not clear what company employed the oil workers the Hercules was trying to evacuate.

The federal government has already evacuated citizens as well as a number of foreign nationals. Ottawa closed its embassy in Tripoli a few days ago and has set up a satellite diplomatic post in Malta.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the telephone Tuesday with his counterpart in Malta, Lawrence Gonzi, and thanked him for hosting Canadian Forces.

A spokesman for the prime minister, Dimitri Soudas, said the two leaders also talked about the need to further deter violence by the Libyan regime against its own citizens.

Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the world must focus on the unfolding "humanitarian crisis" and said Canada was willing to provide assistance. But he didn't say what form that assistance would take.

Calgary-based Suncor Energy has the biggest Canadian commercial presence in Libya, but said a statement last week that most of its expatriate staff and their families had left the country.

Pure Technologies, also based in Calgary, is said to be organizing to get its staff to safety.

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