[This is the headline over a report published on the South African Mail & Guardian website on this date in 2004. It reads in part:]
Libya’s Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem has said that Libya only agreed to pay compensation for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing to “buy peace”, according to a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday.
Ghanem also told BBC radio’s flagship Today programme there was no evidence that a Libyan was responsible for the shooting of a British policewoman 20 years ago, an event which led to London breaking off diplomatic relations with Tripoli.
Libya formally accepted responsibility in August 2003 for the bombing of New York-bound Flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, southwest Scotland, and agreed to pay $2,7-billion in compensation to families of the 270 victims.
The following month the United Nations Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Libya.
“We thought it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed to compensation,” Ghanem said.
“Therefore we said, ‘Let us buy peace, let us put the whole case behind us and let us look forward’,” he added.
His comments could damage the former pariah state’s relations with Britain which have improved dramatically since Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi announced in December that his country had given up the bid to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
Tripoli and London formally re-established diplomatic relations in 1999. (...)
In a sign that Libya was slowly being accepted back into the international fold, it was announced during Shalgam’s visit that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would visit Gadaffi “as soon as convenient”.
No date was fixed for the meeting and the British Foreign Office was unable to confirm in which country such a meeting might take place. Ghanem said a Blair visit to Libya would be important because he could see the country for himself rather than hearing about it from others. The British prime minister would be made very welcome, he added.
He also said Gadaffi would consider visiting Britain if he was invited.
Ghanem called for the United States, which has existing sanctions against Libya, to take his country off its list of states sponsoring terrorism.
[RB: A transcript of the full interview can be read here.]