Britain warns Libya against feting Megrahi's release

20th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain warned Libya that any celebrations to mark the one-year anniversary Friday of the Lockerbie bomber's release would be "tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive".

The Foreign Office made the comments late Thursday, amid fears there could be a repeat of scenes last year when Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi returned to a hero's welcome in Libya after his release by Scottish authorities.

"Particularly on this anniversary we understand the continuing anguish that Megrahi's release has caused his victims, both in the UK and the US," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman in London.

"He was convicted for the worst act of terrorism in British history.

"Any celebration of Megrahi's release will be tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive to the victims' families."

She added: "We have made our concerns clear to the Libyan government."

She reiterated the British government's position that Scotland's decision to free Megrahi was a mistake, a view that has been expressed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Scotland took the decision to release the bomber on compassionate grounds on August 20 last year, saying he was seriously ill with prostate cancer and probably only had three months to live.

But Megrahi is still alive in his homeland of Libya, prompting fury among the mainly American relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

The former intelligence agent was released after serving just eight years of a minimum 20-year sentence.

Suspicions in the United States that energy giant BP -- already vilified in the US over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- had a hand in the Lockerbie affair have added to mounting anger.

US senators allege the energy firm played a part in securing the bomber's release as part of its efforts to seal a lucrative exploration deal with Tripoli.

The US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee wants to hold a hearing into the affair in the coming weeks.

Officials in Britain deny BP was involved in the affair and the Scottish government has declined to send ministers to Washington to appear before the hearing.

Scotland's devolved centre-left government, led by First Minister Alex Salmond and based in Edinburgh, has responsibility for justice issues in Scotland under Britain's constitutional arrangements.

© 2010 AFP

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