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Freedom Flights Ending : Last Plane Leaves Iraq on Thursday

From Associated Press

The White House said today that Thursday’s evacuation flight of Americans from Iraq and Kuwait is “likely to be the last” and will probably also carry home the remaining staff of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

“We would anticipate that once all Americans who want out have been able to get out that we would remove the entire staff of the embassy,” White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.

He spoke as a second planeload of Americans left Iraq bound for Frankfurt, Germany.

Today, eight Americans boarded a U.S. chartered aircraft in Iraq, leaving just three remaining to be evacuated so far as is known, State Department officials said.

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The officials said they believe all other Americans who wanted to leave Iraq and Kuwait have done so. But another flight is scheduled for Thursday to pick up any who may not have made their presence known to U.S. officials.

Other officials, asking not to be identified, said the three Americans yet to be evacuated all were used as “human shields” and have not yet been allowed to leave because of visa problems.

No Americans boarded the Boeing 707 in Kuwait today, and eight got on in Baghdad, the officials said. The flight then departed for Frankfurt.

While he adhered to a U.S. policy of not revealing the number inside the besieged U.S. Embassy in Kuwait city, Fitzwater said that “suffice it to say, it’s a small group.”

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He said that the United States technically would consider the embassy “an active and open embassy available for work whenever we should want to do that.”

But, “from a practical matter, we won’t have anyone there to raise the flag,” he added.

“While the President is very happy to see the individual hostages being released, he has watched some of it on television . . . the President shares what I’m sure is everyone’s concern and disgust with some of the stories that are being told of harassment and deprivation during their captivity,” Fitzwater said.

“We watch this process with a certain amount of caution in the sense that it’s not completed yet. And we won’t be happy until everyone is out,” he added.

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