News | Sunday, 02 November 2008

We saved Gaddafi, not Craxi - Mifsud Bonnici

Former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici has shed doubts on the Libyan foreign minister’s declaration last Thursday claiming that Italy had tipped off Libya of the US bombing raid on Muammar Gaddafi’s house in April 1986.
Speaking to MaltaToday, Mifsud Bonnici said he was “extremely surprised” by Abdel-Rahman Shalgam’s claims that he was informed by former Italian premier Bettino Craxi “one or two days” before the US bombing.
“An hour before the bombing, we had informed Libyan air traffic controllers that unidentified, unauthorised planes were approaching their region,” after passing over Maltese air space, Mifsud Bonnici recalls about the fateful attack on the night of 15 April, 1986.
“I’m extremely surprised (by Shalgam’s declaration) as the Libyans were totally unprepared for the attack. So they either ignored the Italians’ tip-off or I don’t know.”
In fact, the attack had killed Gaddafi’s 15-month old adopted daughter and some other 40 civilians, and injured 226 others.
Asked if Libya and Italy were revising history just as they concluded reconciliation deals, Mifsud Bonnici said: “Possibly, yes.”
To this day, Libya reserves the highest respect for Mifsud Bonnici, for whom red carpet treatment is offered on his regular trips to Tripoli.
Mifsud Bonnici said that, ironically, in the same evening

before Malta alerted Libya, Gaddafi had accepted to participate in a conference on terrorism, and he had informed Craxi of the development.
And yet, Shalgam – who in 1986 was Libyan Ambassador to Italy – was quoted by ANSA and Apcom news agencies as saying that the Italians warned him personally of the raids.
“I don’t think I am revealing a secret if I announce that Italy informed us a day before — April 14, 1986 — that there would be an American aggression against Libya,” the agencies quoted Shalgam as saying.
“The (prime minister) sent me a message through a mutual friend to tell me... that there (would be) an American raid against Libya,” Shalgam said.
Shalgam was in Rome last Thursday, just a day after visiting Malta, to attend a conference at the foreign ministry on a treaty the two countries signed in August which includes $5 billion in compensation for Italy’s 30-year colonial rule of Libya, from 1911-1943.
His claims were confirmed by Giulio Andreotti, who was Italy’s foreign affairs minister at the time. “The American raid was a completely inappropriate measure, a huge mistake,” Andreotti said.
Asked if Libya’s version of events were correct, he said: “I would say so, yes.”
Former US President Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi after the disco attacks that killed three, including two U.S. servicemen, in Berlin.
Then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was the only European leader to give permission for US bombers to use the UK’s bases to launch the controversial raid.

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