Gadhafi's Puzzling Welcome Of Lockerbie Bomber

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. i i

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (left) talks to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. AP/Jamahiriya Broadcasting via APTN hide caption

itoggle caption AP/Jamahiriya Broadcasting via APTN
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and freed Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (left) talks to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

AP/Jamahiriya Broadcasting via APTN

I am baffled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi's behavior in giving a hero's welcome to the one man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was released from a Scottish prison on representation that he is dying of cancer. He flew to Tripoli to be met in an organized rally of hundreds.

The honoring of a convicted mass killer has been denounced by President Obama and especially by families of the 270 killed in the crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. It looks to them like an endorsement of terrorism, after Gadhafi had spent a decade trying to shed his terrorist image.

In those 10 years, he has scrapped Libya's nuclear program, shelled out close to $2 billion in compensation to Lockerbie families, and sought the reopening of diplomatic relations with the United States and others as a token of improved relations.

The Libyan leader was due to receive an official visit by Britain's Duke of York, and in prospect was a meeting with Obama during the United Nations in September. None of that is happening.

Although Megrahi was a Gadhafi intelligence officer, the Libyan leader has never personally acknowledged any connection with the bombing. The closest he came was in an interview with journalist Milton Viorst in 1999. Asked about his connection with the conspiracy, he said, "I can't answer as to whether Libya was responsible."

Megrahi has never implicated Gadhafi. Gadhafi has now clasped him to his bosom, apparently willing to defy worldwide condemnation. As to why Gadhafi is willing to risk the fruits of 10 years of courting the West, some analysts believed he may be responding to Libyan public opinion, though public opinion has not seemed to bother him much before. Or does Gadhafi need to keep his former intelligence agent quiet? As I say, I am baffled.

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