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Migrant group: Rescue mission to Tripoli delayed

GENEVA (AP) _ A rescue mission to pluck 300 foreigners from the Libyan capital Tripoli has been delayed by fighting, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.

The Geneva-based group said its charter ship will remain off the coast of Tripoli ``until security conditions have improved and the safety of staff and migrants can be guaranteed.''

An IOM spokesman said the group had been advised by the rebels that docking was unsafe at this point, and government authorities loyal to Moammar Gadhafi had failed to respond to a request to land.

"Until yesterday we thought the port area was under control of the opposition forces,'' Jean-Philippe Chauzy told reporters in Geneva.

Thousands of migrants are trying to leave Tripoli, and IOM is ready to send additional ships to the city within 48-72 hours if security conditions improve.

"We can crank up the operation very quickly as soon as we have clearance to dock in the port in Tripoli,'' said Chauzy, noting the situation in the city was "fluid.''

"Sea ports and air ports are key strategic objectives,'' he added. ``They tend to be hard- fought.''

The first group of 300 migrants to be evacuated were likely to be Filipinos.

In all, some 1,700 Philippines nationals have registered for evacuation, along with about 2,000 Bangladeshis and 1,500-2,000 Egyptians. Chauzy said there is no clear figure on the overall number still in the city.

The group called on Moammar Gadhafi's forces and the rebels to ensure foreigners can safely make their way to the port once the ship is able to dock.

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