Thursday, 1 September 2011

US: No plans to tie Libya aid to Lockerbie case

[This is the headline over a report issued today by The Associated Press news agency. It reads in part:]

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will continue to press Libyan rebels to review the case of the convicted Lockerbie bomber but ruled out making the transfer of frozen Gadhafi regime assets contingent on his return to prison.

Getting the money to the opposition is a higher initial priority than handling the case of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the State Department said. (...)

Some lawmakers, including Clinton's former Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer have called on the Obama administration to withhold U.S. support for the rebels until Megrahi is jailed and independently examined by medical professionals to determine his health status. Other lawmakers and at least one Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, have urged the administration to demand that the opposition arrest and extradite al-Megrahi.

But [State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland said that the Libyan opposition's most important tasks are finishing its apparent victory over Gadhafi, restoring stability and starting a democratic transition. She said the administration would keep up pressure over the al-Megrahi case but would not link it to the return of assets. She also noted that it was Gadhafi, not his foes, who had treated al-Megrahi as a hero.

"We all have to take a hard line, and we have been, on Megrahi and anybody else who has blood on their hands from the Lockerbie bombing, and we will continue to do so," she told reporters.

"We need to give the TNC a chance to do job one, which is to finish the job of ousting Gadhafi and his regime; begin the job of establishing Libya on a democratic path," Nuland said. "And we are very gratified by the fact that they have made clear that they are willing to look into this. We will continue to talk to them about it, and we will certainly make sure that Congress's views are conveyed."

The opposition has pledged to look at the handling of the al-Megrahi case once it has established itself as a fully functioning government.

That is apparently not soon enough for some. (...)

New York's other senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, and New Jersey Sens Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg have also made the al-Megrahi case an issue.

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