Canada evacuated its embassy staff and suspended its diplomatic presence in strife-torn Libya on Saturday.

Dimitri Soudas, the top spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Saturday the decision was based on the recommendation of Canada's ambassador in Tripoli and in close collaboration with other countries.

A military plane carried the Canadian ambassador, five consular officials as well as 18 other Canadians out of the country early Saturday.

The C-17 also carried 12 British citizens and officials from Australia's diplomatic mission. In all, 46 people were evacuated. Soudas said it was impossible to obtain diplomatic clearances from the Libyans, but Harper ordered the plane to land regardless.

There are now fewer than 100 Canadians in Libya hoping to leave. Soudas said the evacuation operating is ongoing and a C-17 will remain in Malta on standby.

Some 200 Canadians have escaped on an American-chartered ferry and planes brought in by other countries.