Leaders watch Libya's reaction to bomber

Aug. 21, 2009 at 9:45 AM
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EDINBURGH, Scotland, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Britain's foreign secretary Friday warned Libya its reputation was on the line as the world tracks its reaction to the 1998 Pan Am bomber's return home.

David Miliband said Libya's diplomatic relations would be damaged if a sense of celebration persists with the return of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan spy convicted of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in which 270 people died in Lockerbie, Scotland, The Times of London reported. Al-Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was released Thursday on compassionate grounds and flown from Glasgow to Triopli.

British and Scottish officials joined the United States Friday in criticizing the way al-Megrahi was welcomed home as a hero, The New York Times reported. Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, said he didn't think the display was "appropriate."

"Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing," Miliband told the BBC. "I think it's very important that Libya knows, and certainly we have told them, that how the Libyan government handles itself in the next few days after the arrival of Mr. Megrahi will be very significant in the way the world views Libya's re-entry into the civilized community of the nations."

U.S. President Barack Obama, during a radio interview Thursday, said U.S. officials contacted the Libyan government to try to ensure al-Megrahi was "not welcomed back in some way, but instead should be under house arrest."

Miliband said British officials were not involved in discussions surrounding al-Megrahi's release. U.S. officials tried to pressure Scotland to keep al-Megrahi imprisoned at Greenrock Prison.

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