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Inspectors will certify 'Libya' tanker is empty

Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Last updated at 11.43 p.m.

Oiltanking Malta said this evening that independent experts would certify that an oil tanker which anti-Gaddafi protesters claim is heading for Libya, will leave Malta empty.

The ship's owners also insisted that the ship would not head for Libya.

The assurances came as the group of anti-Gaddafi Libyans protesters went to court in an attempt to stop the departure from Malta Freeport of the tanker Mubariz Ibrahimov, which they claim will carry oil to Libya. Magistrate Abigail Lofaro put off a decision by 24 hours to enable the Attorney General to reply. She also requested the protesters to explain their request.

Talks were also being held at the freeport between the protesters and representatives of the ship owners and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the owners seeking to assure the protesters that the ship would not go to Libya.

The tanker belongs to the Palmali Group of Turkey.

In a statement, Oiltanking said: "To our best of knowledge none of the vessels berthed at the Oiltanking Malta Terminal have Libya as their next port of call."

The tanker 'Mubariz Ibrahimov" rrived from Port Kavkaz (Russia), discharging full quantity in Malta and is due to depart, empty, for the Baltic, Oiltanking said.

Police Inspector Priscilla Caruana told the protesters that the Mubariz Ibrahimov had come from Russia and was scheduled to head for the Black Sea, in ballast, this evening.

However, the Libyans insisted that the ship should not be allowed to leave port at any cost. They claimed that it would be impossible to ensure that it was totally emptied and by keeping it in Malta, thousands of lives in Libya would be saved.

Earlier today, the Libyans had said they were considering holding a protest over the presence in Malta of Yahya Ibrahim Gaddafi, a senior official of a Libyan state-owned oil company.

The Libyan Youth Movement said on Twitter that Mr Gaddafi was in Malta today seeking $5 million worth of fuel to be shipped illegally to Libya.

On Facebook, the Libyan Solidarity Movement said that Gaddafi was sending his officials to many countries to try and "buy" fuel.

"We kindly urge the Maltese government to please stop these criminals from executing their blood deals in Malta."

Later, it appealed to the government to investigate the Mubariz Ibrahimov and to forbid it from leaving Malta until a guarantee was given that it would not sail to Libya.

Libyans in Malta claimed that Mr Gaddafi arrived yesterday to secure oil shipments to Libya from private sources.

Col Gaddafi's forces are said to have suffered oil shortages after rebels captured the oil rich east of the country, including many storage tanks. Those areas, however, are now back under government control.

A tanker said to be on its way to the Gaddafi forces was intercepted by the rebels on Tuesday.

The Anwar Afriqiya, which allegedly belongs to Hanibaal Gaddafi , was berthed in Tobruk with 25,000 tons of fuel on board.

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