Libya rules out UK visit on Lockerbie

2012-03-07 09:26
Tripoli - Libya's interior minister on Tuesday ruled out a visit by British police to investigate the 1988 Lockerbie bombing or the killing of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher almost two decades ago.

"There is no treaty between Britain and Libya to allow such a thing," Fawzi Abdelali told AFP in a joint interview with a British newspaper, adding that London had some explaining to do on its own dealings with Muammar Gaddafi’s ousted regime.

"Why did they shut up about this all these years and bring it up now, when we are in a period of transition and building up our institutions from scratch after decades of dictatorship," the minister asked.

"Do you remember when Fletcher was killed? We are now in 2012. Where was the British government from 1984 until 2011?" said the former district attorney who now has access to tens of thousands of files on Gaddafi’s dealings with world leaders.

For his part, Abdelali said he wanted allegations to be investigated by the ousted leader's jailed son Saif al-Islam that former British prime minister Tony Blair had acted as a political adviser to his father.

Blair played a key role in repairing diplomatic ties between the two countries and visited the north African nation several times after 2004.

"Why did the British government improve its relations with Gaddafi? Something happened in this case between the former Libyan regime and the British government to end this dispute," said the minister.

No concrete developments

"Didn't America and Britain accept millions of dollars from Gaddafi as the price to end this case [Lockerbie]? Who let Abdelbaset al-Megrahi go? Did we?" he asked, referring to the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died.

A Scottish court in 2001 convicted Megrahi but he was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after doctors said he had terminal cancer and only three months left to live.

The interior minister proposed that the British government ask Libyan authorities to open an investigation inside Libya, and the Libyan side would then share its findings with police in Britain.

But any decision would have to await the election of a new government in Libya, which is expected to vote on a constituent assembly in the last week of June, Abdelali stressed.

London has also been seeking information on the 1984 murder of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher during a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in the British capital.

Libya's new rulers have promised to find and bring to trial the main surviving suspect in the case, one of her former colleagues, retired police officer John Murray, said last September.

The fatal shots were believed to have come from within the embassy, but all the staff were deported back to Libya under diplomatic immunity and no charges have ever been brought.

Following the overthrow of Gaddafi, however, Murray travelled to Tripoli and said progress had finally been made in the case, but there have since been no concrete developments.

Military solution

British-Libyan relations have been put in the spotlight by the desecration of World War II graves in the eastern city of Benghazi and the detention of two British journalists by a renegade militia in Tripoli.

"We condemn all acts against any grave or sacred place, so we were saddened and upset by this," said the interior minister.

Abdelali added his ministry has called on authorities in Benghazi to investigate and arrest those responsible but that the Islamic "fundamentalist" culprits were still at large.

The minister added that his forces were capable of raiding the base where reporter Nick Davies and cameraman Gareth Montgomery-Johnson have been held since February 23, accused of illegal entry and possible espionage.

"We are capable of applying a military solution but this would cost a lot of blood so we continue to negotiate," said Abdelali.

Read more on:    saif al-islam gaddafi  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa

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