Lockerbie bomber's release linked with trade talks
Say it with a sting.....
Aug 29 2009 06:50
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under renewed pressure to release details about the UK's dealings with Libya after Colonel Moammar Gadaffi's son said there was an "obvious" link between trade talks and releasing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
Saif Gadaffi said it was "not a secret" that the Libyans were linking a lucrative oil and trade deal signed by Tony Blair in 2007 with their bid to get Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, jailed in 2001 for planting the bomb that killed 270 people, returned to Libya.
But Gadaffi said the prisoner transfer agreement signed by Blair had ultimately had no bearing on the decision by Scottish ministers last week to free al-Megrahi, who is close to death with prostate cancer, on compassionate grounds.
The prisoner transfer agreement "was one animal and the other was the compassionate release", he told the Herald newspaper.
"They are two completely different animals. The Scottish authorities rejected the PTA. It did not work at all, therefore it was meaningless. He was released for completely different reasons."
Gadaffi continued: "The fight to get the [prisoner transfer] agreement lasted a long time and was very political, but I want to make clear that we didn't mention Mr Megrahi. At all times we talked about the PTA. It was obvious we were talking about him. We all knew that was what we were talking about.
"People should not get angry because we were talking about commerce or oil. We signed an oil deal at the same time. The commerce and politics and deals were all with the PTA."
Gadaffi insisted there was "zero link" between al-Megrahi and his recent meeting with the UK business secretary, Lord Mandelson, in Corfu. But al-Megrahi's release now meant Libya and the UK "could put Lockerbie behind us and talk about the future. We want to talk about business and oil and health and more productive projects. This is history."
His comments reignited demands from the Tory leader, David Cameron, for the UK government to reveal the full details of its trade talks and meetings with Libya. The Tories would table parliamentary questions pressing for answers when Westminster returned from the recess, Cameron said.
It was not enough for Brown to say he was "angry" and "repulsed" by the celebrations when al-Megrahi landed at Tripoli, Cameron said. "The real questions remain unanswered. To begin with, what dealings has his government had with that of Libya on this issue?"
"And most importantly of all, what is Gordon Brown's opinion of the decision to return Mr al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds? I have made my view clear. I think it was wrong. I see no justice in affording mercy to someone who showed no mercy to his victims."
The Scottish government has meanwhile tried to distance itself from the row by insisting that none of its ministers had had any discussions about Libyan trade deals with any Scottish businesses, Libyan officials and ministers in the run-up to al-Megrahi's release.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said Alex Salmond, the first minister whose Westminster and Holyrood constituencies are close to Aberdeen, the UK's oil industry capital, had never discussed oil or trade deals with either the Libyans or Scottish firms. Neither had John Swinney, the Scottish finance secretary, or his two junior energy and industry ministers, the spokesperson said.
Scottish government sources also insisted that Salmond was hostile to the prisoner transfer deal signed by Blair some months after the SNP won power in May 2007.
Salmond was furious that the UK government had signed it without his agreement, knowing it had no power to influence Scottish ministers or judges. Scotland has always had a separate legal and judicial system, which has had its independence strengthened by devolution.
Gadaffi tried to play down the controversy over last Thursday's celebrations at Tripoli airport, when al-Megrahi was greeted by him and a large crowd of saltire-waving Libyans. He insisted it was not an official celebration, but said it was a spontaneous display organised by al-Megrahi's large extended family and ordinary Libyans.
The Libyan government had planned to keep it low key -- honouring undertakings with the UK, Scottish and US governments -- but al-Megrahi's heavily-televised release from Greenock prison and transfer to Glasgow airport had publicised his arrival home.
Libyan police were caught by surprise by the size of the crowds, he claimed, delaying al-Megrahi's disembarkation by two hours.
"There was no official celebration, no guards of honour, no fireworks and no parade," he said. "We could have arranged a much better reception."
He added that al-Megrahi would not be a guest of honour at the 40th celebrations of his father's seizing power next week; al-Megrahi would be at hospital instead.
He said: "The decision by Scotland was not influenced by any of these things. I think the Scottish justice secretary is a great man. He made the right decision. So many of us think, including so many of the relatives of the victims, because Mr Megrahi is innocent. One day, history will prove this." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
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Comments by Sonny
....."Money ize Money"'''
Or was that oil, old chap!
Or will that remain a secret of the 'New World Order!'