Some Lm500,000 worth of weapons were yesterday donated to the Armed Forces of Malta by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, marking what was described by AFM acting commander Col Carm Vassallo as a "dream come true".

The substantial consignment meant that for the first time in the 33-year history of the AFM, each and every member of the 1,800-strong force would be in possession of the same standard AKM assault rifle, the Kalashnikov, Col Vassallo said.

The weapons donated, which are made in China, include five types: AKM rifles, or sub-machine guns; light machine guns; general purpose machine guns; sniper rifles; and anti-tank weapons, or rocket launchers; as well as a considerable amount of ammunition.

The agreement to donate the weapons, initially worth Lm150,000, had been signed in Beijing in June, 2001.

The head of the Chinese delegation, Senior Col Tian Wanguang said the Chinese forces valued the good cooperation with the AFM and were pleased to contribute towards its development.

This was the first time China had ever donated weapons to Malta, he said, pledging a "sincere friendship and lasting cooperation".

Present at the signing ceremony for the official handover of the weapons - three containers full - at the Luqa Barracks were Chinese ambassador Liu Zhengxiu and defence attaché Senior Col Wang Wenming.

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