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Malta praised for its heroism as Libyan jets are returned

A high-powered delegation of Libyan military officers this afternoon praised the Maltese people and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi for their 'heroism' during the Libyan conflict, particularly in the way Malta protected two Libyan pilots and impounded their aircraft after they flew here at the beginning of the uprising.

The commander of the Libyan National Army, General  Yousef El Mangoush, said the way Malta had acted, when the international community had not yet become involved, showed heroism by Prime Minister Gonzi and the Maltese people. This episode, he said, as engraved in the Libyan people's hearts.

The comments were made as General El Mangoush led the military delegation on a courtesy call on Dr Gonzi at the Auberge de Castille.

He was accompanied by Brigadier Sager Adam Al Giroshi, Chief of the Air Forces, Brigadier Hassan Ali Abu Shnaq, Chief of the Navy and Brigadier Abdessalam Mahmoud El-Hasi, Chief of Special Forces.

Following the meeting, the Libyan delegation and the prime minister went to the Medavia hangar where the two Libyan Mirage F1 fighters were symbolically handed back to Libya.

The fighters may have to be dismantled and shipped to French aircraft-maker Dassault for a major overhaul before they can be returned to the Libyan air force.

Dr Gonzi said the aircraft had come to symbolise the growing relationship between Malta and the new Libya, and he looked forward to closer collaboration, particularly in the area of checking illegal immigration.

In thanking Dr Gonzi, General El Mangoush also mentioned the management of territorial waters and air traffic control as other areas of collaboration.

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