Updated 10 p.m. - The Nationalist Party reacted sharply this evening after MEP Simon Busuttil told a caller in a Radio 101 phone-in that he was not againt reconciliation with Franco Debono and others, as long as everyone assumed his responsibilities.

“The position of the party executive regarding Franco Debono stands, and the Nationalist Party is not for turning on this matter,” the party’s information director, Frank Psaila, said when contacted.

The PN executive had voted to ban Dr Debono from contesting the general election on the PN ticket.

The caller asked Dr Busuttil to comment on what appeared to be a conciliatory tone by Dr Debono in the past few days.

Dr Busuttil said that, as luck would have he, he bumped into Dr Debono in Republic Street a few days ago, and people were amazed to see them chatting amicably with each other.

He said he too had noted Dr Debono's conciliatory tone.

"If there is a possibility of reconciliation and unity with Franco and all those who feel hurt, we should go for it, because the people want to see us united," Dr Busuttil said.

"I am not saying that people should not assume their responsibilities. If I make a mistake, I will shoulder my responsibility, but even in shouldering responsibilities, there are still ways for unity to prevail over division, and the people would like to see such unity," Dr Busuttil said.

He said he did not know how this unity could come about, but he agreed that Dr Debono's recent behaviour had a conciliatory tone.

The PN, he said, was a party which embraced people of different ideas and it was able to keep them together by putting the national interest before narrow personal or sectoral interests.

The PN was a mosaic of ideas which produced a beautiful picture. He, like others, did not shirk from expressing views which might be different from that of a minister or the prime minister.

The PN gave such freedom to everyone, certainly to Dr Debono, but such freedom should not be confused with the need for loyalty to the party and especially, to the country.

DEBONO'S COMMENTS

On his blog, Dr Debono in the morning said reconciliation was the key to the PN’s deputy leadership contest. The PN, he added, should thank minister Austin Gatt for his contribution over the years but dump his confrontational ways and ensure that he remained completely out of the deputy leadership contest, both on the main stage and even backstage.

ELECTION FOR DEPUTY LEADER

In other parts of today's programme, Dr Busuttil said he has not decided yet whether to contest the election for deputy leader of the PN, having focused in the past week on ensuring that commissioner-designate Tonio Borg got all the help he could get ahead of his hearing before MEPs.

He was now turning his attention to the PN contest, and while he had not decided yet, he hoped there would be a strong contest between friends.

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