North Korea orders nationals in Libya `not to return`

It is an apparent bid to block news of civil uprisings in the Arab World.

Seoul: North Korea has ordered its citizens in Libya not to return home in an apparent bid to block news of civil uprisings in the Arab World from reaching the isolated communist state, a report said on Sunday.

Pyongyang, in a message sent to its embassy in Libya, told some 200 North Korean workers not to return and to follow local authorities` advice, Yonhap news agency said, citing a source familiar with North Korean affairs.

"(The North) did so because it was afraid the news of Libya`s civil unrest would spread within North Korea," said the source quoted by Yonhap.

The impoverished communist state sent hundreds of workers including doctors, nurses and construction labourers to oil-rich nations including Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to earn much-needed foreign cash, Yonhap said.

Countries have rushed to evacuate nationals from the North African country since deadly clashes broke out between rebels and forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi in February.

Pyongyang and Tripoli have maintained close diplomatic ties, with Kadhafi described in the North as a "revolutionary comrade" of leader Kim Jong-Il, according to defectors from the North.

Experts say the North has stepped up its campaign to block information on pro-democracy protests in the Arab World, fearing they could spark similar disturbances among its own people against the ruling Kim dynasty.

The North tightly controls access to the Internet and attempts to block other sources of information about the outside world, though DVDs and mobile phones smuggled from China have been eroding barriers.

Bureau Report