The chairman of the Libyan National Transition Council, Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, said this evening that Malta would have a 'distinguished role' in the rebuilding of Libya.

Mr Jalil was speaking at a press conference after having talks at the Auberge de Castille with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

Mr Jalil arrived in Malta on an unexpected visit late this afternoon accompanied by Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.This was Mr Jibril's second visit to Malta in as many weeks.

They left this evening for New York where they will be attending the UN general assembly.

Chairman Jalil said he wished to thank the Maltese for their solidarity and support during the revolution, notably through the humanitarian and medical assistance and its contribution in military support, including the asylum given to the two Libyan pilots who refused to bomb the Libyan people.

He was also grateful that Malta was giving medical assistance to Libyan people.

All this showed the depth of the relationship between the two countries.

"Malta is our closest neighbour, we share historical ties, we share the Mediterranean culture, and we look forward to strong relations in all fields," he said.

"We will benefit from Malta's experience in development and reconstruction. We have the resources but we lack the expertise," he said, noting Libya's potential for investment in many areas, including tourism.

Libya, he said, was in a stage of reconstruction and rehabilitation and it looked forward to the contribution of all its friends.

"Malta being the closest country geographically will have a distinguished role to play in Libya's reconstruction in all areas."

Dr Gonzi expressed solidarity with the Libyan people and said he also wanted to express congratulations to the chairman and the prime minister and their teams for having worked so hard to achieve for the Libyan people its longstanding ambition of freedom and prosperity.

"Malta and the Maltese people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Libyan people" Dr Gonzi said, adding that Malta had given humanitarian support to the Libyan people and would continue to do so according to the priorities set by the Libyan government.

Dr Gonzi said Malta had offered to take another 25 injured and sick people for medical treatment in Malta, with the Maltese government bearing the costs.

He said it had been a privilege for him to salute the two Libyan people who had been in Malta for the past seven months. These two pilots were considered as heroes, having sent a strong signal when they refused to bomb civilians.

Dr Gonzi said he was sure that in the coming weeks and months Malta and Libya would work together on areas of cooperation for economic progress.

Dr Gonzi said aspects of cooperation which had been discussed incuded education. He added that Malta was continuing to insist that Libyan assets should be 'unfrozen' quickly to be used according to the wishes of the Libyan people, especially for humanitarian reason.

Mr Jalil and Mr Jibril arrived late this afternoon and were immediately driven to the Auberge de Castille for talks with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

This was the second time in as many weeks that Mr Jibril was in Malta.

Today's visit came just hours after two Libyan pilots who had defected from Gaddafi's airforce after refusing to bomb civilians, returned to Libya after having been protected in Malta for seven months.

During his first visit to Malta Mr Jibril had thanked Malta for its valuable assistance to Libya, particularly in the provision of humanitarian assistance.

He had revealed that his talks with Dr Gonzi had included security, amid concerns that elements of the Gaddafi government may try to escape to Malta or other countries neighbouring Libya.

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