Two British warships were dispatched toward the Middle East on Sunday to evacuate up to 10,000 British nationals from war-struck Lebanon.
Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells told BBC radio on Sunday that the navy ships would reach the Britons in Lebanon by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest, noting that Britain was moving as fast as possible to rescue its nationals.
Britain's Foreign Office has urged citizens not to attempt to leave the country, citing the dangerousness of the situation.
"We've seen these scenes of some countries trying to get people out by buses when they've been endangered by explosions on the sides of the roads....We don't want to do that to our citizens. We want to get those who we need to get out as safely and as quickly as possible," Howells said.
Besides the two navy ships, Britain had other boats in the Mediterranean which might be called on to carry evacuees to a reception centre in Cyprus, Howells said.
At the same time, British officials on the ground need the next couple of days to prepare for the evacuation.
"Remember this though, we have to negotiate with the Lebanese, we have to negotiate with the Israelis," Howells said.
Howells noted that Britain was "one of the lead nations" on the evacuation plans, and was working in cooperation with the United States and Australia.
There are about 10,000 British nationals in Lebanon, but officials are trying to identify the most needy. Howells also acknowledged that there are "lots of others" who would not want to move because they felt safer staying where they were.
Since Wednesday, Israel has hit hundreds of targets in Lebanon, closing down the country's sole international airport and damaging the main highway to neighboring Syria.