Muammar Gaddafi’s green flag was flying again atop the Libyan Embassy in Balzan yesterday, only 24 hours after protesters scaled the building’s facade to have it replaced with the monarchic flag associated with the revolution.
The flag, which, according to protesters, “could have been any other rag”, was raised quietly this morning, accompanied by a note, penned by Libyan Ambassador Saadun Suayeh, justifying the replacement.
In the note, Dr Suayeh, who has defied calls for resignation saying he would stay on as a caretaker ambassador until the situation returned to normal, explained that during a meeting with Foreign Minister Tonio Borg on Tuesday he was told the Maltese government recognised Libya’s flag as the one coloured green.
The green flag was also what was accepted by the UN and that was why the embassy removed the pre-Gaddafi flag and reinstated the green one, the ambassador said.
In a statement, however, Dr Borg denied giving “any instructions on which flag is to be used by the Libyan Embassy”.
“That is a decision to be taken exclusively by the Libyan authorities and the embassy. The government of Malta will not interfere in this matter,” Dr Borg said.
The flag was replaced by two Libyans, who had been admitted into the building for a meeting with the ambassador and later dramatically scaled the facade and gained access to the roof.
At the time, the ambassador was speaking to the press and said he had deliberately held back from asking the police to intervene to avoid a confrontation with the protesters.
The police explained in a letter to The Times yesterday they had specifically asked Libyan Embassy staff whether they wanted them to intervene and were told not to (see page 10).
About a dozen Libyans gathered outside the embassy yesterday shortly after news broke that the flag had been changed and even though they were discussing the issue with the flag animatedly, they were not chanting slogans or shouting as in previous demonstrations.
“These are children’s games,” said Eihap Elhouni, wearing a white cap with the pre-regime flag freshly printed on it.
Khaled Baara said the anti-regime activists would be collecting signatures to raise a petition supporting the Libyan people, which would then be presented to the UN.
“I am a young Libyan who is working to get one united Libya, in the name of the Libyan people. This is not a civil war and we do not want foreign military intervention. All we want is help for Libyans to have internet and phone access and to provide medicines and food, which are now lacking,” Mr Baara said.
He said there were 35,000 victims of the pro-Gaddafi militia but no funerals were being allowed as these would only serve to foment anger among Libyans.
“Gaddafi is holding Tripoli hostage. Will he accept to let the women, the elderly and the children leave Tripoli and keep the men only? I’m sure he won’t. At this point, even the devil has washed his hands of Gaddafi,” Mr Baara, also sporting a cap with the old flag, said.
The Maltese government has guaranteed the security of the embassy building and all property covered by diplomatic immunity.
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