- Gordon Brown - Libya - Lockerbie bombing - Tripoli - UK
Reuters - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday he was “angry and repulsed” by the rapturous reception given to Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi on his return to Tripoli in Libya last week.
Brown had not previously commented on Scottish authorities’ release of Megrahi last week on compassionate grounds — a move that has drawn condemnation from the United States government and U.S. relatives of victims. He said Britain was prepared to work with Libya to fight terrorism.
Megrahi, the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives, flew home from Scotland on Thursday, suffering from terminal cancer. He was greeted in Tripoli by more than 1,000 people cheering and waving Libyan and Scottish flags.
Brown said he made clear when he met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last month that Britain had no control over decision-making regarding the release of Megrahi, which was a matter for the devolved authorities in Scotland.
Britain has denied wanting Megrahi to be freed to ease diplomatic and commercial ties with Libya, which has the biggest oil reserves in Africa.
“I have to tell you that I was both angry and I was repulsed by the reception that a convicted bomber guilty of a huge terrorist crime received on his return to Libya,” Brown told a news conference with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Failure of leadership
Critics of the Scottish decision have set up a website urging Americans to “boycott Scotland”.
Brown’s office had issued a copy of a letter he wrote to Gaddafi on Aug. 20 expressly asking him to refrain from a “high-profile” welcome for Megrahi.
Opposition politicians had condemned Brown for his silence on the Lockerbie decision over the past few days. William Hague, the opposition Conservative foreign affairs spokesman, said Brown still had not said whether he supported the release, accusing him of a “failure of leadership”.
The row has brought more negative headlines for Brown, returning to work after a holiday in his native Scotland and facing a battle to reverse poor poll ratings before an election due by next June.
Brown stressed that Britain was determined to fight terrorism around the world, citing its involvement in military campaigns designed to bring stability to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We want to work with countries, even countries like Libya, who have renounced nuclear weapons now and want to join the international community,” Brown said.
He said he did not believe the release of Megrahi would do Britain lasting damage diplomatically.
“I don’t think what has happened will undermine our relationships with Israel or the United States or other countries who engage with us in the fight against terrorism.”