Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who was reportedly killed by the forces of the Transitional National Council  today, had a close relationship with Malta throughout his 42 years in power.

George Borg Olivier's government was among the first to recognise the Gaddafi government after the colonel's coup which dethroned King Idris in 1969.

Since then Gaddafi had meetings with every Maltese prime minister and was particularly close to Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.

Gaddafi first came to Malta in November 1973. He was here in 1974 when he opened the Libyan Arab Cultural Institute in Valletta and at the time made the first of a number of visits to the dockyard.

He visited Malta again in 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982 and 1984 but never came to Malta after the PN was elected to government in 1987, despite promises to do so.

A Friendship and Cooperation Treaty was signed during his last visit to Malta in 1984. It included a protocol on security which was abrogated by the PN government after it took office.

At one time Gaddafi described the Maltese as 'blood brothers' of the Libyans. In 1976 he attended an MLP rally and met the Labour Cabinet. He was the guest at a Labour Party mass meeting in 1978, when he also visited Gozo.

Relations waned for some time in 1981  when he sent a submarine and a gunboat to stop an Italian oil rig from drilling for oil for Malta in disputed waters. 

Gaddafi gave Dom Mintoff the cash he needed to be in a strong position to negotiate the closure of the British military base and was the only foreign head of state to visit Malta for the actual closure of March 31, 1979.

On a previous visit, in 1978, he laid the foundation stone of the mosque in Corradino. The surrounding garden is called Gaddafi Garden.

As relations flourished, several Libyan joint ventures opened in Malta, as well as a Libyan college. Libya also gave the Maltese armed forces helicopters and patrol boats. A military unit was stationed here for some some to assist the AFM, and operated a large Super Frelon helicopter from the AFM base.

Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici gave Gaddafi advance warning in 1986 when US President Ronald Reagan sent bombers to bomb his compound in Tripoli after blaming Libyan agents for bombing a Berlin disco frequented by American servicemen.

The Libyan leader was decorated with Gieh Ir-Republika in 1976 in a ceremony boycotted by the PN. But a Nationalist government in 2004 made him honorary companion of the National Order of Merit.

Last year, Libya awarded Mr Mintoff  the Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was the last foreign leader to visit Gaddafi in his tent in Libya, just days before the Libyan uprising started in February.

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