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Malta to open office in Benghazi - Libyan embassy will not be closed

Foreign Minister Tonio Borg.

Foreign Minister Tonio Borg.

Malta is to open a liaison office in Benghazi, Foreign Minister Tonio Borg announced today.

The announcement came following the statement by the Maltese government yesterday that it considered the Benghazi-based Libyan Transitional National Council as the "sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people", making Malta the third EU country to officially sever contact with Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Addressing the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Dr Borg also said that this morning a Maltese government delegation left for Benghazi for talks with officials of the council. The delegation is headed by Ambassador Victor Camilleri as special envoy.

The delegation will also meet EU officials in Benghazi in order to prepare for the setting up of the Maltese liaison office.

In a presentation to the committee about the situation in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the minister said Col Gaddafi was increasingly isolated, and atrocities in the country had increased.

He noted that the EU and a number of countries had opened liaison offices in Benghazi.

Dr Borg said Malta had still not formally recognised the National Council as the government of Libya, but the legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people.

Therefore, the Libyan embassy in Malta will not be closed down.

PROTEST OVER MIGRANTS

Dr Borg said that he had not met the Libyan ambassador to Malta for some time.

However, he said, when the influx of migrants from Libya increased, he met the ambassador and told that that this "was not on" and action was needed to stop the exodus from Libya.

The minister insisted that Malta would not participate in military action against the Libyan people but was offering its services for humanitarian purposes, including the provision of hospital services. Qatar had offered to help in this regard while Australia had said that it wished to offer humanitarian aid to Libya through Malta. The United Nations, he said, was using Malta as a stopover of its flights to Benghazi. The flight was also used by the Maltese delegation this morning.

With regard to Tunisia, he announced that the Tunisian Foreign Minister would be visiting Malta in the middle of this month to head talks by a Malta-Tunisia mixed commission which would discuss a wide range of bilateral issues.

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