[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Sunday Times. It can be accessed -- but only by those who have subscribed -- here. The report reads in part:]
The Foreign Office fears that Gadaffi intends to hold a high-profile ceremony to mark Megrahi’s imminent death from prostate cancer
Gordon Brown's government planned to use Tony Blair as a “lever of influence” to persuade Libya not to give the Lockerbie bomber a hero’s funeral, leaked documents reveal.
The Foreign Office fears that Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, who has declared Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi innocent of Britain’s worst terrorist attack, intends to hold a high-profile ceremony to mark his imminent death from prostate cancer.
Sources close to Megrahi’s family have claimed he is now in a coma and expected to die within days — although Scottish officials insist that he had been well enough to contact them recently.
David Cameron’s administration has warned the Libyans that a state funeral for the man given compassionate release from a Scottish prison last year would be deeply offensive to relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up above Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. (...)
Last week, a secret US government cable, published by WikiLeaks, described how the Foreign Office regarded Brown’s predecessor as its best hope to persuade Gadaffi not to hold a state funeral for Megrahi. The memo, dated February 25, reported that Philippa Saunders, the incoming Foreign Office director for north Africa, had told US diplomats that Britain regarded Libya’s plans for Megrahi’s funeral as “a major concern and one that HMG [Her Majesty’s government] continues to raise regularly”. It said the British embassy was “engaged in an effort to identify all possible UK levers of influence with Tripoli”, although it warned, “unfortunately, there aren’t too many”.
Saunders, the cable said, singled out Blair as someone who night be able to intervene. It added: “The effort partially originated from the assumption there will be maybe a 48-hour window if we’re lucky between Megrahi’s eventual death and a funeral and the [Foreign Office] wants to ensure HMG is in a position to act quickly.”
Blair helped rehabilitate Gadaffi’s regime in the eyes of the West, and secured oil and defence deals for British firms during talks with the Libyan leader in 2007 that were designed to pave the way for Megrahi’s release. Earlier this year the dictator’s son claimed that Blair had become an adviser to his father, securing a consultancy role with a state fund that manages Libya’s £65 billion oil wealth, although Blair’s office has denied this. In an interview, Saif Gadaffi described Blair as a “personal family friend” who had visited Libya “many, many times” since leaving Downing Street.
Last year Brown said he had been “angry” and “repulsed” by the triumphalist scenes in Tripoli when Megrahi was given a hero’s welcome after being freed. Brown said he had written to Gadaffi asking him to ensure that Megrahi was given a low-key reception. President Barack Obama and US relatives of the victims of the bomb also condemned the scenes.
In August it emerged that Cameron’s government had warned Libya that any celebration of the first anniversary of Megrahi’s release would be an affront to the victims’ families.
Foreign Office sources confirmed that British officials in Tripoli had urged Libya to show restraint with Megrahi’s funeral. A senior Foreign Office source said: “Given the events surrounding his return last year, our position would be that any repeat along those lines would be very insensitive.” (...)