Italy agreed Sunday night to accept 140 migrants stranded aboard a Turkish cargo ship that rescued them in the Mediterranean, ending a four-day standoff with Malta about who would take them in.
The Italian government "has decided to let humanitarian reasons prevail," Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.
"Malta should have taken them in," Frattini told state TV.
A Foreign Ministry statement said the decision was made "exclusively in consideration of the painful humanitarian emergency aboard the cargo ship" and that its acceptance of the migrants "must not in any way be understood as a precedent nor as a recognition of Malta's reasons" for refusing them.
Doctors taken aboard the 230-foot (70-meter) long Pinar by the Italian coast guard had found cases of chicken pox and high fever among the migrants, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, although coast guard officials had said that earlier medical checks had turned up nothing worrisome about the passengers' condition.