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The BBC's James Robbins in Tripoli
"The homecoming was staged for maximum impact"
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The BBC's Frank Gardner in Tripoli
"It's quite an incredible scene here"
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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 18:06 GMT
Gaddafi: I'll clear Lockerbie bomber
Fhimah (left) comes home to a hero's reception
Fhimah (left) comes home to a hero's reception
The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has told the BBC he plans to reveal evidence which proves the innocence of his country's intelligence officer convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

He made the startling claim amid tumultuous scenes as another Libyan, who was cleared of causing the 1988 airline bombing, set foot on home soil for the first time in nearly two years.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 49, a member of Libya's intelligence service, was jailed for life on Wednesday after a nine-month trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

His co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, 44, was released after being found not guilty.

When I speak there'll be three choices before the judges, to resign, to tell the truth or to commit suicide

Colonel Gaddafi
Britain and the US are resisting Libyan demands for the lifting of sanctions, imposed in the wake of the Pan Am flight 103 disaster, in which 270 people were killed.

Washington and London insist Libya must fulfill the conditions of Security Council resolutions which demand full disclosure of its role in the bombing.

There must also be compensation for the relatives of those who died.

'Hero's reception'

A BBC correspondent in Tripoli, Frank Gardner, watched Mr Fhimah emerge from a Royal Netherlands Air Force aircraft to a hero's reception.

He was then driven to the barracks in the centre of Tripoli which the US bombed 15 years ago with heavy loss of life in retaliation for an attack on a nightclub in Berlin where Americans were killed.

Fhimah arrives in Tripoli
Fhimah waves to the crowds in Tripoli
Colonel Gaddafi was present in the crowd at the barracks and was asked by our correspondent if Libya was prepared to pay compensation to relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie crash.

He did not answer that question but said that Libya would be seeking compensation from the West for the "years of sanctions suffered in the 1990s".

Then the Libyan leader said he planned to reveal on Monday evidence that would prove Megrahi was innocent.

'Out of the blue'

Colonel Gaddafi said that when he disclosed his information, the three Scottish judges who found Megrahi guilty would face three choices.

They could resign, tell the truth or commit suicide, he declared.

Our correspondent said Colonel Gaddafi's words "came out of the blue". Libya on Wednesday said it accepted the verdict of the court.

The case was heard by a panel of judges
"It has taken everybody by surprise. I suspect that quite a number of Libyan officials are now scratching their heads, wondering what evidence this is," he added.

Dr Jim Swire, who represents UK families of victims of the bombing, said the Libyan leader could have no grounds for complaint about the trial.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said: "In 1991 when the indictment was first issued I went to meet Colonel Gaddafi expressly to ask him to accept trial under Scottish justice for his two citizens.

"By 1994 his government agreed in writing with the proposals of Professor Bob Black of Edinburgh that they be tried under Scottish criminal rules.

Conflicting messages

"That's what has now happened and I think therefore there is a limited extent to which you can beef about it."

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

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.

'Fair hearing'

"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."

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."

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | Media reports
A victory, says Libyan TV
01 Feb 01 | World
New Lockerbie trial ruled out
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?
01 Feb 01 | Americas
President Bush's first foreign test
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