[This is the headline over a Reuters news agency report issued yesterday evening. It reads in part:]
New York and New Jersey politicians are demanding that any new government in Tripoli extradite to the United States a Libyan official convicted in Britain for the December 1988 bombing of a US-bound airliner. (...)
Representative Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, called on the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council "to engage responsibly with the world community by extraditing Abdel Baset al-Megrahi to the United States to face justice for the Lockerbie bombing."
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, also a Democrat, wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting that if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is ever brought before the International Criminal Court, he should also be prosecuted, for ordering the Pan Am 103 bombing.
However, a representative of the TNC indicated the US discussion about Megrahi and Lockerbie is premature. In a written statement, Libyan ambassador Ali Aujali said: "Before we can deliver justice to Gaddafi's many victims, we must first bring down the regime and then turn to the important work of forming a new government, writing a constitution, and establishing the rule of law."
"The Libyan people, the TNC will obviously have to look at this when they can," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
"The secretary's made clear this guy should be behind bars. The Department of Justice has the lead on these issues," she said. "No decisions have been made, we have to let Justice do its job here and we also have to have a Libyan government back in Tripoli before these conversations can happen." (...)
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd, said: "We remain firmly committed to bringing to justice everyone who may have been involved in the Pan Am 103 bombing. The Justice Department investigation into the Pan Am 103 bombing that was initiated on December 21, 1988 remains open and active."
While the decision to release Megrahi was made by Scottish officials, documents published by the Scottish government indicated that officials of the British government, which at the time was headed by Labor Party prime minister Gordon Brown, supported the Scottish decision.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the British Embassy in Washington sought to distance Britain's current Conservative leader, David Cameron, from the Megrahi release decision, saying that the "Prime Minister has made clear that the Scottish Government decision to release Al-Megrahi was wrong and misguided."
But the spokesperson added that Britain had "no mechanism in place to request a person who has been released on compassionate grounds to be returned to prison if they have survived for longer than the period diagnosed by the relevant medical authorities."