Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi revealed this evening that it was he who suggested to US Senator John McCain that the US could deploy a hospital ship to Malta to help injured Libyan fighters.

Sen McCain speaking on CBS Television yesterday, said that the US could send a hospital ship to Malta or Tripoli to treat injured Libyan fighters.

He visited Tripoli last week after a stop-over in Malta, where he had talks with Dr Gonzi.

"They've got thousands and thousands of wounded. They say that they've lost 25,000 people killed, 3,000 have been maimed, 60,000 injured. That's their government figures," McCain told CBS television's "Face the Nation" programme.

"We should be helping them," said the influential US lawmaker, a Vietnam War aviator and prominent voice on US military matters who also was the Republican Party's losing 2008 presidential candidate. 

McCain said aid workers on the ground in Libya were ill-equipped to cope with the gathering crisis.

"I think we could do enormous things by helping them with the casualties that they've experienced which have been horrendous," he told CBS.

McCain said his travels took him and two other lawmakers to a hospital in Tripoli among other sites.

"They don't have the medical expertise and talent to take care of these people. There are amputees there," the Arizona lawmaker said. 

McCain said providing aid to the injured in the conflict was the least the US government should do, with Libya in the final throes of a months-long battle to end more than four decades of Gaddafi's dictatorial rule.

He suggested some of the wounded could be sent to a US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany and that an American hospital ship should be sent to Tripoli, or if not Malta.

"We can help them. They don't have the medical capability to care for all of these wounded. More are still coming in," McCain told CBS.

Dr Gonzi said that when he suggested to Sen McCain that the US Navy could deploy a hospital ship to Malta, the senator liked the idea and asked if the proposal could be made in writing. The proposal was made as requested.


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