Friday, 15 May 2009

The views of the UK's first ambassador to Tripoli after restoration of diplomatic relations

In 1999, Libya delivered the Lockerbie suspects to stand trial before a Scottish court convened in the Netherlands, which acquitted Mr Fhimah but sentenced Megrahi to life in prison with a minimum of 27 years. Meanwhile, Libya began secret talks with the United States and repaired ties with Britain.

“Relations developed quite quickly,” said Sir Richard Dalton, posted to Libya in 1999 as Britain’s first ambassador in 15 years and currently an analyst with Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London. “The Libyans were acting responsibly and had fulfilled their obligations in the case of the Lockerbie incident.”

Rapprochement has seen Libya pay US$2.7 billion (Dh9.9bn) to the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing and renounce attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. UN and US sanctions have been lifted, and a US Embassy reopened in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. (...)

“The Libyans have maintained that Megrahi is innocent, and on humanitarian grounds they’d like to see him restored to his family in Libya,” Sir Richard said.

The move is likely to win applause for their government from ordinary Libyans, said Ronald Bruce St John, a Libya expert and analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, a think tank that is part of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

“There’s considerable support in Libya for the argument that the government was not involved in Lockerbie.”

However, Tripoli’s request leaves Megrahi in a bind. If he goes home, he will have to drop his current attempt to appeal his conviction. If he stays to fight his case, he may die before its conclusion.

The affair has caused a stir in Britain, where Scottish politicians have voiced dismay at the prospect of Megrahi being turned loose. Some families of Lockerbie victims believe he may be innocent, but others want him to stay in Scottish custody.

“We want the appeal to go through because it’s the main means of us getting further information about how our family members died or why they died,” said Barrie Berkley, an Englishman whose son Alistair was killed in the bombing, quoted by the BBC.

A decision by the Scottish authorities to keep Megrahi would not seriously derail Britain’s relations with Libya, said Sir Richard. “But there would be consequences.”

Among them is the possibility that a successful appeal by Megrahi would plunge Britain, the US and Libya once again into the fraught environment of an international investigation to find new Lockerbie suspects, Sir Richard said.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in London said Washington wanted Megrahi to remain in Scottish hands, while Britain’s foreign office declined to comment on the affair. (...)

His case is currently being examined by the Scottish authorities, said Fiona Wilson, a spokeswoman for Scotland’s devolved government.

“You have to look at Lockerbie as the last remaining unpleasantness between Britain and Libya,” Dr St John said. “They’d like to get it off the table.”

[From an article by John Thorne, foreign correspendent of The National newspaper, Abu Dhabi.]


  1. Since Sir Richard Dalton regards the Libyans to have acted 'responsibly and had fulfilled their obligations in the case of the Lockerbie incident', one ponders whether his attitude will be the same if it transpires that evidence, which was unavailable at the Zeist trial, and may be aired during this current appeal, results in al-Megrahi being acquitted - thus having justified the decision of the SCCRC to suggest another appeal on the grounds that there may have been a gross miscarriage of justice? May I also point out to Sir Richard that blatant threats of 'consequences' that Libya might have to suffer if the PTA does not go through simply add to the suspicions of those who feel that there is something deeply murky about the entire affair and that many in the UK and US establishments have much to hide. Additionally, it seems that Mr Salmond (Scottish First Secretary) may be contemplating the release of Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds whilst the appeal process continues. As I understand it, even if al-Megrahi dies prior to the judgement, his family may continue the appeal until a conclusion has been reached.

    Quincey Riddle (aka: Robert Forrester).

  2. Let us hope that Alex Salmond does decide to release Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds, that the appeal process does continue, and that the wrongful conviction is overturned in quick time!

    You might like to know that a Wikipedia article on Sir Richard Dalton has recently been created - ( see ).