Martin Fletcher, Tripoli | September 02
LIBYA was set to flaunt the Lockerbie bomber's release at the climax of last night's celebrations marking Muammar Gaddafi's 40 years in power.
The Times gained access to the dress rehearsal of a spectacular two-hour show which extols Colonel Gaddafi for reviving his country and restoring Arab pride. As the finale approaches, the screen at the back of the giant stage in Tripoli's Green Square shows Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi stepping off the plane that brought him home from his Scottish prison two weeks ago.
His arms are raised aloft by Colonel Gaddafi's son, Saif, as he acknowledges the joyful reception from the crowd below.
Unless it is cut out at the last minute, the clip's inclusion seems almost calculated to provoke the West. Britain and the US had urged Libya to keep Megrahi's homecoming low-key.
US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown both expressed disgust when he was given what appeared to be a rapturous welcome at Tripoli airport. It flew in the face of repeated assurances by Libyan officials, including Saif Gaddafi, that the reception was muted and not intended as a display of gloating. Megrahi himself is now in hospital, seriously ill with prostate cancer.
Anxious to dampen down the controversy caused by Megrahi's release, Britain is expected to send only a junior representative to the ceremonies. The British embassy in Tripoli said that the ambassador Vincent Fean was in Malta, suggesting the job would be left to a more junior diplomat. "We are still considering the level of representation," a spokesman said.
Other European states are sending ministers, ambassadors or official delegations, but the President of Malta is thought to be the only European head of state attending. However, the audience will include a large number of African leaders and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.
Source: The Australian