The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for European and Euro-Asian affairs, Elizabeth Dibble, promised today that the United States would 'stay the course' until the Gaddafi regime is removed in Libya.

She was speaking at the US embassy in Malta after having taken part in the meetings of the Contact Group on Libya, held in Turkey.

Ms Dibble is in Malta for two days of talks on bilateral and international issues.

She also reiterated that the US was committed to Nato's Libya mission and said she had no information of claims that the US has had a secret meeting with Gaddafi aides.

International media reported that the meeting took place in Tunisia last Friday. However the US said no negotiations had been held, and it had only conveyed a 'very strong' message that Gaddafi must go.

Ms Dibble praised Malta for its actions in the Libyan crisis, particularly in the evacuation of foreign workers, the provision of humanitarian aid and assistance given to Nato aircraft which found themselves in difficulty.

No one could say how long the Libyan crisis would take, because Col Gaddafi was very unpredictable, she said.

She also highlighted the fact that millions of dollars belonging to the Libyan government and frozen by Washington can be released to the Libyan National Transitional Council, now that the Council had been recognised by the US.

The process had taken some time, she said, while the US got to know what the council stood for.

Ms Dibble will this afternoon have talks with Foreign Minister Tonio Borg (who also attended the Turkey meeting). The issues for discussion, apart from Libya, also include the eurozone crisis.

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