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The BBC's Fergus Nichol in Tripoli
"His return has been trumpeted by the Libyan media as a victory"
 real 56k

The BBC's Frank Gardner in Tripoli
"Quite an incredible scene here"
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The BBC's George Eykyn
"Compensation could be paid"
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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 15:57 GMT
'Hero's return' for Lockerbie accused
Fhimah waves to the crowd in Tripoli
Fhimah waves to the crowd in Tripoli
The Libyan cleared of causing the Lockerbie bombing has returned to Tripoli to a hero's welcome a day after being freed by a Scottish court in the Netherlands.

Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, 44, set foot on Libyan soil for the first time in nearly two years after being found not guilty at the end of a nine-month trial.

He left behind at Camp Zeist his co-accused, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 49, who was convicted and jailed for life. Megrahi is planning an appeal.

The outcome of the trial has intensified demands on Libya to accept blame for the disaster, in which 259 people on Pan Am flight 103 died along with another 11 on the ground in Scotland.

The Arab League has now backed Libya's demand that United Nations sanctions are immediately lifted but the United States and Britain insist they will remain until Colonel Gaddafi fulfills the conditions of the resolutions.

These are:

  • Full disclosure of Libya's role in the bombing
  • Compensation for relatives of those who died.

The BBC's correspondent in Tripoli, James Robbins, said Fhimah emerged from a Royal Netherlands Air Force plane on Thursday afternoon to "tumultuous scenes".

Mr Fhimah, who was accused with Megrahi of being a member of Libya's intelligence service, flashed a victory sign as he descended into the midst of journalists. He declared: "God is great" on the way.

Megrahi
Megrahi: Jailed for life
Members of Fhimah's family held up pictures of him.

Our correspondent says the Libyan Government had wanted a 'hero's welcome' to try to distract attention from the fact that a Libyan was convicted of one of the greatest crimes in recent history.

A timetable is being drawn up by US and UK political leaders to decide the next move in the diplomatic exchanges.

Conflicting signals

This comes ahead of an anticipated meeting in New York next week between US and Libyan officials to lay down exactly what Tripoli must do to have the sanctions lifted.

There have been conflicting signals out of Libya in response to the West's demands following Megrahi's conviction.


In the event of the guilty verdict standing, Libya has to accept that it must take these two further steps

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Asked by the BBC if Libya would accept responsibility, Libya Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam replied: "Never".

But its ambassador to Britain, Mohammed al-Zwai, took a softer stance.

"After the appeal result, in that time we can speak about compensation and we will fulfil our duty as we said before to the Security Council," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But we still think not now."

'Fair hearing'

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he noted the ambassador's comments.

"What he was saying is it would have to wait until the appeal is discharged," he went on.

"He (Megrahi) will of course have a fair hearing as he has already had a fair trial. But in the event of the guilty verdict standing, Libya has to accept that it must take these two further steps."

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher laid down four demands with which the United States said Libya must comply.

The sun sets on the memorial to the dead in Lockerbie
The sun sets on the memorial to the dead in Lockerbie
"That means revealing everything they know about the Lockerbie bombing, paying reparations, a clear declaration acknowledging responsibility for the actions of the Libyan officials and clear unambiguous actions which demonstrate the Libyan Government understands its responsibilities," he said.

Scotland's senior law officer, the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC, ruled out the prospect of further criminal proceedings at present because, he said, there was insufficient evidence.

Meanwhile, Britain's relations with Libya will not be broken by Megrahi's conviction, one analyst predicted.

George Joffe, a North Africa specialist at London's School of Oriental and African Studies, said both countries, which restored diplomatic relations in 1999 after 15 years of hostility and mistrust, wanted to move beyond confrontation to a cautious cooperation.

Britain cut relations with Colonel Gaddafi's revolutionary government in 1984 after the fatal shooting of a British policewoman at an opposition protest outside the Libyan embassy in central London.

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | World
When will sanctions be lifted?
01 Feb 01 | World
New Lockerbie trial ruled out
01 Feb 01 | World
Lockerbie 'could happen again'
01 Feb 01 | World
Inside 'Gaddafi's café'
01 Feb 01 | World
Libya refuses to accept blame
31 Jan 01 | Europe
Analysis: The whole story?
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