The Maltese government is considering offering a credit line to the Libyan Transitional National Council and allowing it to repay borrowed money through assets belonging to the government led by Muammar Gaddafi and which have been frozen in Malta.

This was announced by Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg on his return to Malta yesterday after a day of meetings in Benghazi, where the council is based.

He said Malta committed itself to help out the war-torn country by offering humanitarian aid in the form of health care and scholarships to Libyan students.

The Libyan civil war started on February 15 when a series of peaceful protests were met with violence by the Gaddafi regime. As the turmoil intensified, the Libyan Transitional National Council was set up as a political body representing the anti-Gaddafi movement.

The Maltese government announced last month it considered the Benghazi-based council as the “sole legitimate interlocutor of the Libyan people”, severing contact with Col Gaddafi’s regime. However, full recognition has not been granted because first the government has to establish whether it can transfer to the council the frozen assets belonging to the Libyan government in Malta. Col Gaddafi’s assets had been frozen following a resolution by the UN Security Council.

Dr Borg explained that during his “successful” visit to Benghazi he met the chairman, Mahmoud Jibril, and members of the council. He asked the council how Malta could help and they listed three points: humanitarian aid, finances and education.

Dr Borg said Malta, which recently accepted seven injured children from Benghazi, had agreed to offer health assistance. The health ministers of the two countries were already in contact so see how to go about this. It was not yet clear whether Malta would accept war casualties or send a medical team or medicines to Libya.

As for education, Malta would be offering a range of scholarships to Libyan students. More details would be announced at a later stage.

Turning to finances, Malta was considering setting up a credit line but first it had to look into whether it would be possible to allow the council to repay borrowed money through the frozen assets.

He said that during the meeting they also spoke about illegal immigration. Immigrants from Africa often use Libya as a stepping stone to make their way into Europe. The council pledged it would help control the immigration problem but needed help with monitoring the south border, he said.

Dr Borg said the two sides agreed to have more meetings with delegations planned to visit both countries.

He said that, at this stage, Malta was not ruling out the full recognition of the council but first had to iron out what would happen to the frozen assets.

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