Malta, once Britain's most important naval and air base in the Mediterranean, began a new era in its history on Saturday night (31 March).
GV Union Jack being lowered at night as ships' sirens are sounded.
SV Malta's new flag being raised (3 SHOTS)
GV Fireworks exploding. (2 SHOTS)
LV Flag party.
SV Dom Mintoff, Prime Minister of Malta climbing rocks with burning torch and lighting eternal flame. (2 SHOTS)
TV Mintoff lays flowers at base of flagpole with fireworks in background.
GV Crowd cheering as colonel Gaddafi of Libya Jamahiriyah waves from base of flag pole. (2 SHOTS)
CU PAN DOWN Malta's flag TO officials laying flowers at base.
TV Colonel Gaddafi shaking hands with crowds as he leaves the site.
SV British sailor carrying Union Jack.
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Background: Malta, once Britain's most important naval and air base in the Mediterranean, began a new era in its history on Saturday night (31 March). One-hundred and eighty years after the British first established military bases on Malta, they left the island.
SYNOPSIS: At midnight on Saturday (31 March) the Union Jack was hauled down for the last time over Britain's naval base in Valletta. Ships' sirens signalled Malta's new position of non-alignment. And symbolising the end of military links with the United Kingdom the Maltese flag, was hoisted, where for one hundred and eighty years a Union Jack had announced the British presence.
Malta became independent just fifteen years ago. And in 1974 the small islands south of Sicily became a republic.
The Maltese celebrated their new neutrality; but everybody including Prime Minister, Dom Mintoff -- stressed that breaking military ties with Britain meant recriminations against British citizens living in Malta. One of the decorations among the lines of coloured lights and buntings, showed British Royal Air Force planes flying out and doves of peace flying into Malta.
Malta has sought economic and security guarantees from Libya, Algeria, France and Italy. Britain paid fourteen million pounds Sterling (28 million U.S. dollars) annually in rent for its bases. Servicemen spent another four million (8 million U.S.) a year in Malta.
Colonel Gaddafi, the leader of Libya Jamahiriyah was present at the "Freedom Day" celebrations. Libya Jamahiriyah is one of Malta's nearest neighbours in Africa.
And as the Union Jack was carried away, British servicemen left Malta for the last time.