Thursday, September 3, 2009

Britain denies ‘double-dealing’ over Lockerbie bomber

Thursday, September 03, 2009 LONDON: Britain denied on Wednesday any “double-dealing” with oil-rich Libya over the release of the Lockerbie bomber but admitted it had not wanted the former Libyan agent to die in a Scottish prison. Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was entirely a matter for the Scottish government, which freed him on compassionate grounds last month because he is dying of cancer. “There was no conspiracy, no cover-up, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to influence Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to Colonel Qadhafi,” he said. Brown met Libyan leader Moamer Qadhafi in July, weeks before the Scottish decision to free Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 bombing of a plane over Scotland which killed 270 people. On Wednesday the British premier — who underlined the strategic aim of bringing Libya back into the international fold — stopped short of confirming that he had favoured releasing Megrahi from prison before his death. But Foreign Secretary David Miliband acknowledged that London did not want the Libyan to die in Greenock prison, west of Glasgow, from where he was released on August 20. “We did not want him to die in prison... we weren’t seeking his death in prison,” Miliband told BBC radio, in the first public admission of London’s stance by a senior minister. And he insisted: “There was no pressure from the British government on the Scots.” The fresh comments came nearly two weeks after Megrahi was released and was allowed to return to Libya because he is dying of prostate cancer and could have less than three months to live. Megrahi, jailed for at least 27 years in 2001 over the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, served eight years of a life sentence before being released on August 20. The Libyan’s release — and the hero’s welcome he received on his return to Tripoli — drew a furious US reaction, both from President Barack Obama’s administration and families of the 189 US victims of the atrocity. The minority Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has also been heavily criticised at home — including by opposition deputies who criticised him in a debate in the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday. But Salmond — who faced possible defeat in a series of votes expected from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) — said he was proud of the support for his move within Scotland, including from the Church of Scotland and Catholic leaders. “And I am even prouder to have the support of (former South African president) Nelson Mandela, which indicates the respect for a Scottish judicial decision across this planet.” The British premier insisted Megrahi’s fate was not linked to strategic efforts to bring Libya back into the international fold, following its pariah status for much of the 1980s and 90s. Source : The News International

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