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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 17:17 GMT
Dismay over Libyan PM's claims
Wpc Yvonne Fletcher
Yvonne Fletcher was killed and 10 others injured
Relatives and friends of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher and the Lockerbie bombing victims have reacted with dismay to comments by Libya's prime minister.

Shukri Ghanem has told the BBC his country does not accept guilt for the bombing and for the policewoman's death in 1984.

He told Radio 4's Today programme the issue of Wpc Fletcher was "settled".

But UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the government considered Libya's stance "unchanged".

Mr Straw said he would examine Dr Ghanem's reported comments, but said the Libyan government had accepted general responsibility for the shooting of WPC Fletcher and that it had written to the UN Security Council accepting responsibility for the actions of its agents regarding Lockerbie.

It's out of line with everything Libya has been saying and nobody knows why he has said this
Dr Jim Swire

Film director Michael Winner said the family of the murdered policewoman would be distraught at the "despicable" claim.

Mr Winner, who is chairman of the Police Memorial Trust set up after Wpc Fletcher's death in 1984, called on the government to force Libya to hand over the killer.

He said: "It is disgraceful. They know perfectly well who Yvonne Fletcher was shot by - someone inside their embassy, with their gun and a great many Libyan witnesses - and they are now saying they know nothing about it.

"The family will be very distressed.

"Although they have accepted what is really the Libyans' blood money, they want justice and the Libyans are laughing in the face of justice."

Lockerbie crash
These comments fly in the face of the commitment Libya has given in writing to the UN which was that they would co-operate in any further inquiries into what happened at Lockerbie
Pamela Dix
Wpc Fletcher is thought to have been shot dead by a gunman inside the Libyan embassy as she helped police a demonstration outside in 1984.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said the UK should have nothing more to do with Libya until the killer was handed over to the authorities.

"They can't even admit the truth to themselves. They know who is responsible just as we know. There is a mass of evidence, this is a wholly solvable crime.

"There is no co-operation. There never has been any co-operation. They are basically liars.

"They cannot buy their way out of trouble. It is beneath contempt."

Wpc Fletcher's mother, Queenie Fletcher, 70, said from her home in Wiltshire on Tuesday that she did not want to comment on the row.

'Bought peace'

In the interview, Dr Ghanem was also asked if paying compensation over Lockerbie did not mean acceptance of guilt. He agreed that it did not - and said the effect of sanctions had prompted a deal.

"We feel that we bought peace," he said.

In 2001 Libyan security agent Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Libya has since paid about 2.2 m to each of the families of those killed in the bombing.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing, said Libya had satisfied the United Nations that it had accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie disaster.

"As a result UN sanctions have been withdrawn," he said.


Speaking on behalf of the pressure group UK Families - Flight 103, Dr Swire said the group wanted an explanation of Dr Ghanem's comments.

"It's out of line with everything Libya has been saying and nobody knows why he has said this.

"The plain fact is that a Libyan intelligence agent was found guilty by a Scottish court in Holland, guilty as charged.

"That verdict stands and as a result of the verdict Libya has accepted responsibility in a way that has satisfied the United Nations."

Pamela Dix, who lost her sister in the tragedy, said there were still major questions over the bombing to be answered.

"These comments fly in the face of the commitment Libya has given in writing to the UN which was that they would co-operate in any further inquiries into what happened at Lockerbie," she said.

"We see the comments as underlining of the fact we do not have the answers to the big questions: Why was it carried out, what was the motivation, and who was behind it?"




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mike Thomson
"Libya's Prime Minister is adamant his government has nothing to hide"



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