‘Gaddafi asked Mintoff to help him buy nuclear sub’
Deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had asked Dom Mintoff to act as an intermediary in a nuclear submarine purchase, according to MEP John Attard Montalto, confidant to the former Labour Prime Minister.
Writing in The Times today, Dr Attard Montalto says: “Mintoff was stunned and refused. Not after all his efforts, Mintoff told me, to demilitarise and de-nuclearise the Mediterranean.”
The MEP uses this anecdote and others to contrast the “distorted” story often told about Mr Mintoff’s relationship with Col Gaddafi.
“Mintoff always knew who he was dealing with: an arbitrary, unpredictable man, made ruthless by the international politics in his region and his ability to buy almost anyone and anything.”
The article deals with the established view that Mr Mintoff used his relationship with Col Gaddafi as leverage with the West. Dr Attard Montalto quotes the former Labour Leader telling him: “Do you think Europe and America would have paid attention to me if I did not have that personal relationship with Gaddafi?”
However, it also reveals Mr Mintoff was aware of the dangers entailed by his high-risk foreign policy strategy.
Writing about the 1980 standoff, when Libyan gunboats threatened to shoot at an oil platform drilling for Malta, the MEP writes of a searing exchange in Tripoli between Mr Mintoff and Abdesalam Jalloud, Gaddafi’s number two at the time, which degenerated into a threat against the former Prime Minister.
Mr Mintoff described the meeting, which lasted several hours, as “the greatest fight” of his life. “Jalloud shouted at Mintoff that even the waters in Malta’s Grand Harbour fell within Libyan waters. Mintoff gave as good as he got.
“I suspect Jalloud retorted by pulling out a gun or making direct physical threats.
“Why else would Mintoff tell me, more than once, that the incident was scarier than anything else he had been through?” Dr Attard Montalto writes.
The article adds to Dr Attard Montalto’s previous contribution to The Times in the wake of Mr Mintoff’s death on August 20.
In it, the MEP wrote about the enduring friendship he had struck in 1987 with Mr Mintoff, then 71, shortly after he was first elected to Parliament at the age of 34.
The two met at least once a week for the following 16 years, apart from during Dr Montalto’s 22-month stint as minister in Alfred Sant’s Government.