05 October 2005

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Business Today

Ta’ Qali counting hall could serve as US embassy compound

James Debono

The days are counted for what used to be the Ta’ Qali counting hall. Business Today has reliable information that the Maltese government intends to sell the Ta’ Qali election complex to the US State department for 18 million dollars.
Sources told Business Today the location of the complex would support operational telecommunications facilities for a state of the art US embassy. The matter is expected to raise the concern of nearby residents at Misrah Kola in Attard, home to an affluent middle class. The Labour party has been particularly silent about the whole affair, which could see government give up a large tract of public land in what is deemed to be Malta’s largest open-air recreational area.
Jeffrey Anderson, press secretary of the Embassy of the United States would neither confirm nor deny whether the government land purchased by the US government for the development of the embassy is the Ta’ Qali counting hall. The hall was recently closed down on the premise that it had asbestos fixings which are dangerous to health.
Anderson told Business Today that the US government has signed a preliminary agreement to purchase land from the Government of Malta, pending parliamentary approval.
“Since the sale has not yet been completed, any specific questions regarding the property should be addressed to the Government of Malta,” added Mr Anderson.
Yet questions sent to the Ministry for justice and home affairs, which is responsible for the administration of government lands, remained unanswered by the time of going to print.
Anderson explained that since 1998, the US Government embarked on a long-term project to replace rather than to merely upgrade many diplomatic facilities overseas.
“Under this initiative the US Government aims to create safe and functional buildings that blend American and local architectural traditions. Following the completion of many new US Embassy buildings around the world, it is now the turn of the US Embassy in Malta to have a new site.”
According to Anderson no new facilities are envisaged for the new compound.
“The United States has enjoyed close diplomatic relations with Malta since 1964 and will continue the wide range of diplomatic activities that we currently undertake,” Anderson said.
The acquisition of government land for the price of 18 million dollars, coincided with Mondays’ meeting between President George Bush and Lawrence Gonzi. During this meeting the issue of double taxation was discussed.
The sale of government land to the US government, the exceptionally lengthy meeting between Gonzi and Bush and a clamorous declaration by the US ambassador that Malta has given airspace rights to the US are all indications of a ‘warmer’ relationship between Malta and the USA.
A sale of 18 million dollars or Lm6.47m would be equivalent to 64 plots, each measuring around 250 square metres and with a commercial value of Lm100,000.

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