President George Vella "absolutely" does not feel he should resign for failing to personally sign IVF amendments into law, he told reporters on Wednesday.

He has faced calls to step down after he waited until he went abroad before the law was signed by his stand-in, a delay that legal experts said breached the Constitution.

In his first public appearance after returning from the UK last week, Vella told reporters he would not resign but was reluctant to open up about the reasons for his behaviour. 

“One day, when the time is right, we will tell the entire story and we will be able to speak more freely,” he said, suggesting that his office restricts him from discussing the issue further. 

George Vella speaks for the first time since IVF amendments were signed into law by his stand-in while he was out of the country. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

PN leader Benard Grech was among those to call for his resignation, while the ADPD said the president should be impeached for refusing to sign the law himself.

“Don’t ask me about what they said. Ask them,” Vella told reporters. “There is no need for a resignation."

The amendments to the IVF law mean that embryos can be tested for nine specific life-limiting conditions before being implanted in the womb as part of the fertility procedure. 

After the amendments were overwhelmingly approved in Parliament on July 6, there was speculation that Vella was reluctant to sign the law due to a conflict of conscience.

He is known to have privately expressed reservations about the amendments, which conservative opponents believe violate their pro-life views. However he refused to publicly express his opinion, insisting that the law "will be signed" without committing to being the one to sign it. 

After a three-week delay from the bill being passed in parliament by 66 votes in favour and three against, it was signed last week by acting president, Frank Bezzina, as soon as Vella flew to Birmingham. 

Two legal experts told Times of Malta that Vella's behaviour breached Article 72 of the Constitution of Malta, which has a provision that states that the president must assent to bills ‘without delay’ once they have passed through parliament.

Vella, who is a doctor by profession, has previously spoken at an anti-abortion rally and has made it clear that he would never sign a bill concerning abortion. 

"I would never sign a bill that involves the authorisation of murder," he said last year. “I cannot stop the executive from deciding, that is up to Parliament.  But I do have the liberty, if I don’t agree with a bill, to resign and go home, I have no problem doing this.” 

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