Gaddafi threat­ens to cut trade with Bri­tain if Locker­bie bomber died in jail

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

LONDON: Libyan leader Muam­mar Gaddafi threat­ened to cut trade with Bri­tain and warned of "enor­mous reper­cus­sions" if the Locker­bie bomber died in jail, Bri­tain's Guardian news­pa­per said on Wed­nes­day, cit­ing U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles ob­tained by Wik­iLeaks.

Ab­del Bas­set al-Me­grahi, jailed for life for his part in blow­ing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Scot­land in 1988, was freed by Scot­tish au­thor­i­ties in Au­gust 2009 on com­pas­sion­ate grounds, as he had prostate can­cer and was thought to have just months to live.

The re­lease fu­eled anger in the United States, be­cause 189 of the 270 vic­tims were Amer­i­can, and the fact he re­mains alive to­day has stirred sus­pi­cion over the rea­son for his re­lease.

"The Libyans have told HMG (Her Majesty's Govern­ment) flat out that there will be ' enor­mous reper­cus­sions' for the UK-Libya bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship if Me­grahi's early re­lease is not han­dled prop­erly," U.S. diplo­mat Richard LeBaron wrote in a cable to Washington in Oc­to­ber 2008.

Libya "con­vinced UK em­bassy of­fi­cers that the con­se­quences if Me­grahi were to die in prison ... would be harsh, im­me­di­ate and not eas­ily reme­died," the U.S. am­bas­sador to Libya was quoted as say­ing in an­other cable in Jan­uary 2009.

"Spe­cific threats have in­cluded the im­me­di­ate ces­sa­tion of all UK com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity with Libya, a di­min­ish­ment or sev­er­ing of po­lit­i­cal ties, and demon­stra­tions against of­fi­cial UK fa­cil­i­ties," said U.S. Am­bas­sador Gene Cretz.

Libyan of­fi­cials had im­plied the wel­fare of Bri­tish di­plo­mats and cit­i­zens in Libya would be at risk. "The regime re­mains es­sen­tially thug­gish in its ap­proach," he added.

The Guardian said the ca­bles also showed Scot­land's First Min­is­ter Alex Sal­mond had un­der­es­ti­mated the pub­lic out­cry in the United States and Bri­tain.

It said a Bri­tish civil ser­vant had told the U.S. em­bassy that of­fi­cials from Sal­mond's Scot­tish Na­tional Party had sought to blame the Bri­tish govern­ment for putting the Scots in a po­si­tion to have to make a de­ci­sion.

"It is clear that the Scot­tish govern­ment un­der­es­ti­mated the blow­back it would re­ceive in re­sponse to Me­grahi's re­lease and is now try­ing to paint it­self as the vic­tim," wrote Louis Sus­man, the U.S. am­bas­sador in London, in a cable. U.S. anger over Me­grahi's re­lease resur­faced ear­lier this year af­ter sug­ges­tions Bri­tish en­ergy gi­ant BP Plc had lob­bied Scot­land for Me­grahi's re­lease. BP and Scot­tish min­is­ters have de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions. Bri­tain has al­ways con­ceded that its in­ter­ests would be dam­aged if Me­grahi died in a Scot­tish prison. How­ever, speak­ing to BBC ra­dio on Wed­nes­day, both Sal­mond and for­mer Bri­tish Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Jack Straw re­peated de­nials that Libyan pres­sure had played a part in the de­ci­sion to al­low Me­grahi to re­turn home.

"From a Scot­tish govern­ment per­spec­tive-and in­ci­den­tally, the Amer­i­can in­for­ma­tion bears this out-we weren't in­ter­ested in threats, we weren't in­ter­ested in blan­dish­ments, we were only in­ter­ested in ap­ply­ing Scot­tish jus­tice," Sal­mond said.

Straw added: "Both Alex Sal­mond and the Bri­tish govern­ment have said un­til they're blue in the face what is true, that this was a de­ci­sion which was made by the Scot­tish govern­ment and by no­body else and they did it on the ba­sis of their law."-Reuters

TOKYO: Ja­panese chil­dren are in­tro­duced a pho­to­graph of whale at a pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion by Cal­i­for­nia pho­tog­ra­pher Bryant Austin (L/rear) in Tokyo. -Ap

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