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US: Libya aid not tied to Lockerbie

The US government has pledged to continue pressure on Libya to review the case of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, but ruled out making his return to prison a condition of returning Gaddafi regime assets.

As secretary of state Hillary Clinton prepared to attend an international conference in Paris aimed at boosting aid to the rebels, the US State Department said getting the money to the opposition was a higher initial priority than handling the case of Megrahi.

Former Libyan intelligence agent Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. Terminally-ill Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison two years ago and returned to a hero's welcome in Libya where he is now reported to be near death.

The conference will gather top officials from about 60 countries to hear from the rebels what they need to get Libya stabilised and governed.

The National Transitional Council is expected to present a detailed list of requests, topped by access to the billions of dollars in assets of Muammar Gaddafi's government that are frozen around the world. They also may seek short-term loans from the IMF and World Bank, according to US officials.

And, while they do not want international peacekeepers, the rebels may seek some kind of civilian United Nations police presence, the officials said.

Mrs Clinton hopes to be able to announce in Paris that 1.5 billion dollars (£925m) in Gaddafi regime assets frozen in the United States has been distributed on behalf of the rebels, officials said.

That money, about half of the liquid portion of the more than £18.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets, was freed up last week when the UN Security Council eased sanctions against Libya. European nations are now seeking similar UN authorisation to release billions more in frozen assets that they hold.

Some politicians, including Mrs Clinton's former Senate colleague, Democratic senator Chuck Schumer, have urged the Obama administration to withhold US support for the rebels until Megrahi is re-jailed and independently examined by medical professionals to determine his health status.

Meanwhile, Russia has recognised the Libyan rebel movement as the country's acting leadership. A short statement from the Russian foreign ministry said diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tripoli will continue and it recognised the rebel National Transitional Council.


From Belfast Telegraph