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Libya’s Gaddafi meets freed Lockerbie bomber

Libya says decision to free Megrahi linked to trade ties

Published:

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi embraced the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised deeper cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, as London and Washington condemned his "hero's welcome" home.

Meeting Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for "encouraging" Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, said Libyan news agency JANA.

"This step is in the interest of relations between the two countries ... and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries," the Libyan leader said.

Scotland's government on Thursday released him from a life sentence for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland because he has terminal prostate cancer. The attack killed 270 people, most of them Americans.

Libyan state TV showed Megrahi arriving at Gaddafi’s home by car. Gaddafi embraced the former intelligence agent, who was accompanied by members of his family, and the two sat down and talked.

More than 1,000 young Libyans gathered at an airport in Tripoli on Thursday to welcome Megrahi home, cheering and waving national flags.

This step is in the interest of relations between the two countries ... and of the personal friendship between me and them and will be positively reflected for sure in all areas of cooperation between the two countries

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi

Trade ties

The British government has denied it put pressure on Scotland's devolved administration to free Megrahi in the interest of better ties with Libya, which has the biggest proven oil reserves in Africa.

Gaddafi son Seif al-Islam said Megrahi's release was linked to trade deals with Britain, allegations which were swiftly denied by London.

"In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table," said Islam, who travelled to Scotland to accompany Megrahi back to Libya.

"All British interests were linked to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi," he added in interview to Libyan TV channel Al Mutawassit taped on the return flight.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office firmly denied that Megrahi's release was linked to Britain's interest in Libya's oil and gas reserves.

"The position remains the same as we have been making clear: this has always been a matter for the Scottish executive and ministers," he added.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office also rejected the allegations.

European governments including Britain's are lobbying hard for business in Libya as it emerges from years of sanctions. Oil super majors BP and Shell are among several British firms hoping to make big profits in the desert country.

Exonerated before death

Megrahi vowed in an interview with Britain's Times newspaper published on Saturday that he would present new evidence before he died exonerating him of any involvement in Lockerbie.

He dismissed the international furor over his release, saying U.S. President Barack Obama and others should know he would not be doing anything apart from going to hospital for treatment and waiting to die.

"My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence (to exonerate me) and ask them to be the jury," Megrahi, sentenced in 2001, said without elaborating.

"(Obama) knows I'm a very ill person," said Megrahi. "The only place I have to go is the hospital for medical treatment. I'm not interested in going anywhere else. Don't worry, Mr. Obama -- it's just three months (until I die)."

My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence (to exonerate me) and ask them to be the jury

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi

Comparison to Bulgarian nurses

Relatives of many of the Americans who died in the Lockerbie attack have voiced disgust at Megrahi's release and his reception back in Tripoli.

Gaddafi likened the shock of the Lockerbie relatives to that felt by Libyans in 2007 when Bulgarian medics condemned to death for infecting Libyan children with HIV were sent back to Bulgaria to serve life terms there, but immediately released.

Libya handed the nurses over to Bulgaria under heavy pressure from the West, advancing the long-isolated north African country's efforts to emerge from diplomatic isolation.

"Is it that we don't have feelings and they have?" Gaddafi was quoted by JANA as saying.

"The world was shocked and surprised that the condemned team was released before they descended from their plane at the airport in Bulgaria," he said. "They received them as heroes."

"Now that Abdel Basset al-Megrahi has been released from prison, illogical voices have been heard saying this is against the feelings of Lockerbie victims' families."

world was shocked and surprised that the condemned team was released before they descended from their plane at the airport in Bulgaria

Gadhafi