[This is the headline over an article published late yesterday (Washington DC time) in the Embassy Row section of the website of The Washington Times. It reads in part:]
The Libyan foreign minister is a "cowardly terrorist" who should never be honored in Washington, the president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 said Wednesday as he questioned why a prominent Arab-American business association would hold a reception to salute the man linked to the bombing of the airliner.
"Why would anyone want to honor someone with as much blood on his hands as [Foreign Minister] Musa Kousa?" asked Frank Duggan, who represents relatives of the 270 people killed when the flight exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The victims included 190 Americans.
The National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce and the Libyan Embassy are the co-sponsors of the Thursday evening reception, which also will celebrate recent US-Libyan trade deals. The chamber did not respond to an e-mail seeking a comment.
Libyan Ambassador Ali Suileiman Aujali, however, expressed outrage over an Embassy Row column on Tuesday that included references to news reports that linked Mr Kousa to the Pan Am bombing, as well as to the 1986 La Belle discotheque attack in Berlin that killed three US soldiers and injured 230 others, including 50 American soldiers.
Mr Kousa was expelled from Britain in 1980 after London accused him of using his position as head of the Libyan diplomatic mission to order hit men to kill Libyan dissidents. Mr Kousa has never been charged with any act of terrorism and has denied any link to the attacks.
"Libya and the United States have entered a new era in relations, and editorials such as yours devoid of fact and accompanied by slander only allow for the set back of improvements with respect to the emerging bilateral relationship between our two countries," Mr Aujali said in an e-mail.
"I would also like to note, that I strongly object to the slanderous remarks used to describe Secretary Kousa. It is important to note that Secretary Kousa holds the position of Libyan Foreign Minister. He is recognized by his peers, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, from whom he received this invitation to visit Washington, and is therefore deserving of the same respect consummate with other ministers of foreign affairs and persons of his rank."
Mr Aujali noted that Libya paid $2.7 billion in compensation to the relatives of the victims of the Pan Am flight and has established normal diplomatic relations with the United States.
"Having closed this chapter, neither Libya nor the United States will accept to live in the shadow of Lockerbie, as we continue to move forward with the future of our bilateral relationship," Mr Aujali said.