The Maltese Prime Minister, Mr. Dom Mintoff, was given a tumultuous welcome by thousands of?
The Maltese Prime Minister, Mr. Dom Mintoff, was given a tumultuous welcome by thousands of supporters in Valetta yesterday (March 27) after signing a seven-year agreement with Britain on the future of the Mediterranean island's military bases.
The pact, signed in London on March 26 by Mr. Mintoff and Lord Carrington, the British Minister of Defence, stipulates that Warsaw Pact powers will be denied access to military facilities -- and guarantees Malta an annual rental of 14 million pounds sterling.
Even before the signing, cheering crowds were picnicking on the beaches -- and celebrations continued well into the night. The scene was the same when Mr. Mintoff drove to Parliament building to read a statement in the House, with jubilant crowds swarming round the Prime Minister's car. Later, Mr. Mintoff told the nation in a television broadcast that the accord was a "great victory".
SYNOPSIS: For the Maltese people...a happy day! Thousands of jubilant islanders packed the narrow streets of Valetta, the capital. The occasion: the return of Dom Mintoff, the Prime Minister, who had just signed a new, seven-year agreement with Britain on the future of the island's military bases.
Crowds swarmed round their leader's car as he drove to Parliament Building to make a statement to the House. The agreement will bring Malta an income of fourteen million pounds a year in rental for the bases.
Since the agreement was signed, many Maltese have regarded Mr. Mintoff as the island's saviour. But accord was reached only after nine months of hard bargaining. And British forces had almost completed their withdrawal from the bases.
The agreement stipulates that the Warsaw Pact powers be denied any access to military facilities on the island. But the British government will be allowed to use them only for the defence of Britain and NATO countries. The pact includes a guarantee to Mr. Mintoff that they will no be used against Arab countries.
Later, Mr. Mintoff made a televised broadcast to the nation. The agreement, he said, was a "great victory" for Malta. But further sacrifices would be needed to free the island of all military treaties -- his ultimate goal. Mr. Mintoff added that there would be no cuts in the 6,000 civilians employed by the British government before April next year. After that, the number would be reduced to about three and-a-half thousand. But for the moment, a sharp rise in unemployment has been avoided.