A UK company working on redeveloping Benghazi Airport in Libya confirms that the airport's runway has been destroyed as a result of the continuing clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces.

A spokesman for Capita Symonds, which is 18 months into a three-year project to design a redeveloped airport adjacent to the current Benghazi facility, says the company's managing director Jonathan Goring has received a statement from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirming that the runway has been destroyed.

However, he is unable to provide further details on the extent of the damage because "as soon as the local protests escalated a decision was taken to evacuate all staff immediately".

In a speech on Libyan state television today, Col Muammar Gaddafi made a reference to Benghazi Airport, saying that "planes cannot landbecause cockroaches are surrounding the airport and trying to attack us."

UK foreign secretary William Hague told a press conference today that the UK Government is "urgently seeking landing permission from the Libyan Government" for a charter aircraft to airlift stranded British citizens out of the country.

UK carriers British Airways and BMI have cancelled today's Tripoli flights and are monitoring the situation as it continues to unfold.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news