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Libya's Gaddafi meets Lockerbie bomber - TV footage

LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi was shown on television today embracing and meeting a former agent who was released by Scotland from a life sentence for the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people.

The BBC, which carried footage from Libyan state television, quoted Gaddafi as praising Scotland for having the "courage" to allow Abdel Basset al-Megrahi to return to Libya on compassionate grounds because of his terminal cancer condition.

Gaddafi embraced Megrahi when the former intelligence agent, who returned to Libya on Thursday, arrived for the meeting by car. They were then shown sitting down and talking.

The United States and Britain have condemned what they saw as a "hero's welcome" given to Megrahi on his return to Libya.

Few other details of the meeting between Gaddafi and Megrahi were immediately available, but the Libyan footage was also screened by other international broadcasters.

Megrahi vowed in an interview with Britain's Times newspaper published today that he would present new evidence before he died that would exonerate him of any involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

He dismissed the international furore over his release, saying US President Barack Obama and others should know he would not be doing anything apart from going to hospital for treatment and waiting to die.

"My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence (to exonerate me) and ask them to be the jury," Megrahi, sentenced in 2001, said without elaborating.

Megrahi, 57, is the only person to have been convicted of the murder of all 259 people on board a Pan Am Boeing 747 and 11 killed on the ground when the plane exploded above the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Most of the victims were American.

"If there is justice in (Britain) I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice," said Megrahi.

The decision to release Megrahi was made by the devolved Scottish government, which has its own powers on justice and several other policy areas that are free of control from London.


Britain said the Megrahi case was a matter for Scotland alone and dismissed suggestions London had wanted him to be freed to help bolster diplomatic and commercial ties with Libya, which has the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

Yesterday, Obama described as "highly objectionable" scenes at Tripoli airport where hundreds of young Libyans cheered and waved national flags when Megrahi returned. Large public gatherings are rare in Libya and are usually tightly controlled.

"(Obama) knows I'm a very ill person. You know what kind of illness I have," said Megrahi.

"The only place I have to go is the hospital for medical treatment. I'm not interested in going anywhere else.

"Don't worry, Mr Obama -- it's just three months (until I die)."

Megrahi said he understood why many of the Lockerbie victims' relatives were angry at his release.

"They have hatred for me. It's natural to behave like this," he said, while adding that others had written to him in prison to say they forgave him whether he was guilty or innocent.

"They believe I'm guilty which in reality I'm not. One day the truth won't be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: `The truth never dies'."

Megrahi said he was "very, very happy" to have been allowed to return home.

When doctors had told him he had just a few months left to live, "this was my hope and wish -- to be back with my family before I pass away," he said.


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