Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Koussa has thanked Malta again for having, in 1986, warned Libya of a US Air Force attack on Tripoli.

The warning had been made personally by then Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici when the bombers, which took off from the UK and from an aircraft carrier, were detected overflying the Mediterranean towards Libya. An adopted daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was among those who died but Col Gaddafi had time to shelter and survived without injury.

Mr Koussa was in Malta yesterday for meetings of the Malta-Libya joint commission and had meetings with President George Abela, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Foreign Minister Tonio Borg. It was during his meeting with Dr Gonzi that the 1986 incident was recalled.

Earlier Mr Koussa announced that Col Gaddafi would visit Malta in March - his first visit since the 1980s. His visits of the time are remembered in particular for an MLP mass meeting where he launched a strong verbal attack on US President Ronald Reagan (Pres Reagan himself was to describe Col Gaddafi as a 'mad dog' and blamed him for terrorism in Europe.) Col Gaddafi is also remembered for the way he was escorted on his visits to various locations in Malta by women bodyguards clambering on his jeep.

Talks held during commission meetings yesterday touched a range of issues, including investment, education, illegal immigration and health.

Asked about talks on the possibility of joint Malta-Libyan oil exploration in disputed offshore areas, Dr Borg said the file on the matter was "active" but refrained from giving any details.

"Tripartite talks between Malta, Libya and Italy on joint oil exploration in contested areas are ongoing on the basis of a framework presented by Malta. The file is active, not dead," Dr Borg said.

During his meeting with Dr Gonzi, Mr Koussa said Libya was grateful for the advance warning Malta had given Libya in 1986 when US airplanes bombed Col. Gaddafi's residence.

Dr Gonzi welcomed the announcement of Col. Gaddafi's visit and insisted it was important for both countries to maintain good relations.

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