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Update 3: Libyan embassy in Malta hails hoisting of independence flag

Gaddafi picture frames, green flag set on fire - Ambassador 'still in office'

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

UPDATED 8.52 a.m. on Monday

The Libyan embassy in Malta this morning finally announced that it is recognising the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole legitimate government of Libya.

In a statement issued hours after a cheering crowd hoisted the Libyan independence flag on the embassy flagpole, the embassy said it it putting itself and its assets at the council's disposal.

The embassy described the hoisting of the flag as 'a historic moment for the Libyan community marking the victory of their revolution'.

"The Libyan embassy has consistently maintained that it represents the Libyan people rather than the regime. While recognizing the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the sole legitimate government of Libya, putting itself and its assets at its disposal, it will continue to perform its duties and honour its obligations."

The embassy called on all the members of the Libyan community to safeguard all Libyan assets and property on the island, respecting Maltese laws and regulations.

It also expressed its "deepest appreciation" for the Maltese government and the Maltese people for their assistance and support for the Libyan people, saying that was " truly a remarkable show of solidarity".

"As Libya turns into a true democracy, we sincerely hope that our relations will be further strengthened and cemented," the embassy said.

A spokesman for the embassy said when contacted that the ambassador, Saadun Suayeh, 'is still in office'.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was formally notified by the ambassador last night that the Libyan flag was being replaced.

JUBILATION OUTSIDE EMBASSY

A crowd of over 200 Libyans last night celebrated the liberation of Tripoli by entering the Libyan embassy in Balzan, hoisting the Libyan revolution (independence) flag and setting fire to pictures of Muammar Gaddafi. The all-green flag of the Gaddafi government was also set on fire.

The independence  flag, which has become the Libyan rebels' flag, was hoisted at 12.28 a.m. (Monday) amid wild cheering.

The crowd started gathering at about 11.15 p.m. (Sunday) as news was received of the rebels' rapid advance into Tripoli as resistance by the Gaddafi forces evaporated.

They gathered across the road from the embassy, waving flags, singing and cheering. A police contingent formed up in front of the embassy, which was also protected by barbed wire. 

At about 12.15 four men and a boy were allowed into the embassy and they immediately proceeded to the roof, where they hauled down the Libyan flag and replaced it with the old flag amid scenes of jubilation.

The men then emerged holding two picture frames of Muammar Gaddafi, which were immediately smashed on the ground, with several men trampling on them before setting them on fire. 

The Libyans then formed a noisy carcade which went around several localities.

Getting the revolution flag to fly on the Libyan embassy in Malta has been a struggle for the Libyan community in Malta. On March 1, during a protest outside the embassy, a man scaled the wall of the embassy, pulled down the green flag and replaced it with the rebels' flag, but embassy staff promptly replaced it with the green flag once more.

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