/ 25 August 2009

Brown ‘repulsed’ by Lockerbie bomber’s welcome home

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday he was ”angry” and ”repulsed” at Libya’s welcome home for the Lockerbie bomber after his release last week, in his first comments on the controversy.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was freed from a Scottish jail last week, sparking angry United States reactions and accusations that it was part of a deal to secure trade and other concessions from oil-rich Libya.

”I was both angry and I was repulsed by the reception of a convicted bomber guilty of a huge terrorist crime … on his return to Libya,” said Brown, who has faced growing criticism over his silence on the release.

And he added: ”When I met [Libyan leader] Colonel (Moammar) Gadaffi over the summer I made it absolutely clear to him that we had no role in making the decision about al-Megrahi’s future.

”Because it was a quasi-judicial matter, because it was a matter legislated for by the Scottish Parliament and not by us … it was a matter over which we could not interfere, and [we] had no control over the final outcome.”

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced al-Megrahi’s release last week on compassionate grounds as the 57-year-old former Libyan agent is dying of prostate cancer.

But he was given a hero’s welcome on his return to Tripoli, greeted by hundreds of people waving Scottish and Libyan flags at the airport, triggering angry reaction notably from the US administration and relatives of US victims.

Brown underlined the importance of engaging with Libya, which has returned to international respectability after a prolonged diplomatic freeze that had been exacerbated by the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people died.

”I want to make it absolutely clear, however, that whatever the decision, that was made on compassionate grounds … our resolve to fight terrorism is absolute, our determination to work with other countries to fight and to root out terrorism is total.

And he added: ”We want to work with countries — even countries like Libya — who have renounced nuclear weapons now, and want to join the international community.

”We want to work with them in the fight against terrorism around the world.” — AFP