A Libyan Air Cargo Antonov 26 arrived in Malta this afternoon carrying pilots,  technicians and equipment to restore the two Libyan Air Force Mirage F1 fighters to airworthiness, almost a year after they were brought to Malta.

The jets have been on the tarmac since February 21, when they arrived unexpectedly when their pilots refused to bomb fellow Libyans in Benghazi.

The pilots were granted protection in Malta until they were able to return to Tripoli when the Gaddafi regime was defeated. They returned today to inspect the aircraft, which need an overhaul before they can be flown back. 

The Mirages were disarmed by British RAF technicians soon after they landed in Malta and they were then disabled by technicians from French plane-maker Mirage as Malta resisted pressure by the former Libyan government for the planes to be returned.

A ceremony was held in September last year when roundels bearing the colours of the new Libyan government were stuck to the aircraft.

The United Nations has cleared Malta to return the aircraft after having imposed sanctions on the sale or transfer of weapons to Libya during the uprising.

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