Malta refused to trade Libyan defector jets for Dutch soldiers
Mar 11, 2011, 12:56 GMT
A Libyan Mirage F1 jet is surrounded by airport staff on tarmac after it was stripped of its weaponry 07 March 2011, after it landed on the Malta International Airport near Luqa, Malta, on 21 February 2011. Two Libyan fighter jet pilots who landed without authorization in Malta on 21 Febuary afternoon have asked for political asylum. The pilots - both colonels operating from Okba Bin Nafe, a base near the Libyan capital Tripoli - surrendered to the Maltese authorities and were taken in for questioning, the official said. EPA/STRINGER
Valletta, Malta - Malta had refused an offer by Libya to free three Dutch soldiers in exchange for the return of two war planes flown to the island by Libyan defectors, Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said Friday.
Gonzi, in an interview with the daily Times of Malta, said the deal had been put forward to him by Libyan Prime Minister Mahmudi Bagdadi.
But the Maltese premier said he insisted that the Dutch soldiers - two men and a woman who were captured on February 27 - be released 'immediately without any condition.'
The Dutch soldiers were handed to Greek and Maltese officials in Tripoli and flown to Athens on Friday.
'Malta was instrumental in the release of these soldiers and was involved in delicate negotiations. We are very satisfied that they are returning home safely,' Gonzi said.
Last month two Libyan air force colonels flew their jets to Malta saying they were refusing to obey orders to attack anti-government protesters in Libya.
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