Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Libyan rebels deny offering Lockerbie compensation

Libya's revolutionary administration has denied a claim by a British lawyer representing victims of IRA attacks and the Lockerbie bombing that it has apologised for Libya's involvement and offered compensation.

Following a meeting with the rebel council's leadership in Benghazi, Jason McCue, head of the Libya Victims Initiative, read a statement which he said was an "unequivocal apology" for Libya's provision of Semtex used in IRA bombings and the blowing up of the Pan Am flight.

McCue said the revolutionary council had agreed to pay compensation along the lines paid out in a deal between Muammar Gaddafi and the US government which provided $10m for a death and $3m for a serious injury. He said there was also agreement to set up a trust for other victims.

McCue said the apology and offer of compensation was in the name of chairman of its interim governing council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

But Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, its deputy chairman, said McCue's claims were "not true".

"We didn't apologise ourselves. We regret what happened, the catastrophic event of Lockerbie, and we will do our best to reach the truth with the families of Lockerbie. Also for the IRA. We emphasised to the British government that we will work to overcome what has happened. But there was no apology. We are not responsible," he said.

Ghoga said that the council "didn't negotiate anything about compensation".

"We want to know the truth. We will help the families of the victims to get to the truth," he said.

However, separately, the council said that it would "co-operate fully" to establish what had happened in the Lockerbie attack "and the right of the victims' families for justice".

Mustafa Gheriani, a council spokesman, was equally clear in his denial that an apology was made. He said they council had expressed sorrow but that Gaddafi was responsible and that it is he who should apologise.

"When we say sorry it means we did it. But we did not do it. Gaddafi did it. It's sorrow not an apology," he said.

The council noted that if it wished to issue an apology in Jalil's name it would not ask a British lawyer to read it.

Meanwhile, the head of Libya's rebel army has accused Nato of abandoning people to their deaths after a sharp reduction in the number of western air strikes.

Abdel Fattah Younes said that the limited number of air strikes since Nato took command of the operation last week had permitted Gaddafi's forces to advance once again, after earlier attacks forced them in to headlong retreat.

"Nato is moving very slowly, allowing Gaddafi forces to advance … Nato has become our problem," Younes said. "Either Nato does its work properly or I will ask the (rebel) national council to raise the matter with the (UN) security council."

Reflecting a growing anger and sense of betrayal among many Libyans in rebel-held areas, Younes said that the failure to keep up the assault meant it was not living up to the UN resolution to protect civilians in cities such as Misrata where Gaddafi's forces are killing people "every day".

Earlier this week, thousands demonstrated in front of the revolutionary council headquarters in Benghazi to demand Nato launch more attacks.

The rebel army has relied on the protection of western air strikes destroying government armour to advance close to the city of Sirte, which, as Gaddafi's birthplace, is strategically and politically important. But after Gaddafi shifted tactics to rely less on tanks and artillery and more on a force with increased mobility, the revolutionaries have been forced back more than 150 miles to Brega.

In the initial stages of the air campaign, strikes by French, US and British aircraft destroyed scores of tanks, armoured vehicles, guns and other military equipment. But Gaddafi's forces have copied the rebels in using pick-up trucks on which guns are mounted, which are harder for aircraft to target, and even if they are hit, have less impact on the Libyan leader's forces than the destruction of large armour.


Meet the rest of O's friends under his bus


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