?We?re not paying for Lockerbie?

LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi has rejected claims for compensation to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing before the United States ?paid in turn for those it has wronged?, and proclaimed a Libyan jailed by the Scottish judiciary for his part in the bombing a “hostage.”

In a discursive two-hour speech from his former home destroyed by 1986 US air strikes, Gaddafi also charged that US and British intelligence had helped prompt a Scottish court to convict Libyan national Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who he said was innocent.

“It’s a political verdict and a masquerade,” said Gaddafi, five days after the special court in The Netherlands sentenced Megrahi to life in prison but acquitted another Libyan.

Asked about the compensation demanded by the US and Britain for the families of the 270 who died in the bombing, the maverick Libyan leader said “all the victims of the United States, from Vietnam to Tripoli” would have to be paid damages first.

But Gaddafi called for a settlement of the affair, saying: “We want peace, and the United States is interested in finding markets for its products.”

In Washington, State Department representative Richard Boucher dismissed the speech, asking rhetorically: “Is it possible to define what he’s talking about?”

Boucher insisted that the only way for Gaddafi to get UN sanctions against his country lifted was to fully comply with Security Council conditions, including that Libya admit responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am 103 and pay compensation.

“It’s really up to Libya to meet the requirements of the international community,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the remarks we’ve seen from Mr Gaddafi today, we don’t see him doing either of those things.”

Gaddafi rejected one by one the reasons adduced in the verdict as he spoke from Bab al-Aziziya, the home US warplanes hit in retaliation for Libya’s alleged role in a disco bombing in Germany. Posters of the victims of the US raid served as backdrop.

Retaliation for the US strike was considered a motive for the Pan Am flight’s bombing, which killed 259 people aboard the plane and 11 in the town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

Gaddafi called for Nelson Mandela and Saudi Arabia, which served as intermediaries in 1999, to work again to reach a resolution to the sanctions. - AFP


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