Saturday, August 15, 1998 Published at 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
US closes Congo embassy
A French national and family await evacuation
The security situation in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is reported to be deteriorating, as rebel forces threaten to attack the city.
The United States has closed its embassy and hundreds of foreign nationals are being evacuated.
A plane sent by Belgium, the former colonial power in Kinshasa, has airlifted 177 of its citizens from the country. South African planes have also taken off from Kinshasa airport. Further flights are scheduled for Sunday.
Eyewitnesses said local people at Kinshasa port hurled abuse at the foreigners as they awaited evacuation.
Britain, which like France has kept its embassy open, has sent 190 commandos to wait on standby on Ascension Island - a six-hour-flight from Kinshasa - in case they are needed to assist in an evacuation.
The British Ambassador to Kinshasa, Doug Crafton, said: "My concern is that British citizens should leave the country while it is still safe to do so."
Many protesters, some carrying spears, accused Rwanda of waging war on Congo and attacked France and the US for trying to destabilise the country.
The mass evacuation from Kinshasa is the fourth carried out by western countries. Foreigners fled the capital during the army mutinies in the final years of the late President Mobutu, and during the turmoil last year when President Laurent Kabila came to power.
There have been no further details on the efforts of four African foreign ministers who are in Kinshasa to try to negotiate peaceful resolution to the conflict.
In an interview with the news agency AP, the Congolese Information Minister Didier Mumengi earlier said the government was preparing a counter-offensive.
"We're getting ready to launch a counter strike at the rebels who are in Lower Congo," he said. "As long as there are foreign troops on our soil, the only solution will be a military solution."