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Libya hails "flourishing" ties with UK after release of lockerbie bomber

   LONDON, July 21 (KUNA) -- Libya's relations with Britain have been flourishing across the board since the controversy over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, one of Tripoli's senior ministers said Wednesday.
   Libya was "delighted" at Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's return home from a Scottish prison last August and still insists he is innocent of the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103, said Abdel-Fatah Yunis al-Obeidi, the Libyan secretary general for public security.
   Obeidi, whose rank is that of a cabinet minister, hinted that Prime Minister David Cameron's comment that Megrahi's release had been a "mistake" - fuelling the domestic and international row about the circumstances of the decision - was made under US pressure.
   In an exclusive interview with the Guardian newspaper on a visit to London, Obeidi said he was certain the former intelligence agent was innocent.
   "Libya is delighted by his return and has always viewed him as a political hostage and never acknowledged him as a prisoner," he said.
"Libya had no connection with the Lockerbie affair. The international community was led to believe that Libya was behind the incident but history will prove the truth. I am convinced that Megrahi was innocent and was a victim of a huge international conspiracy." Libya agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation to families of the victims because of demands from the UN, not because it admitted guilt over the worst act of terrorism in British history.
   It portrays Megrahi's release as a purely humanitarian issue involving a man suffering from terminal prostate cancer who supposedly had just weeks left to live.
"Megrahi is in the hands of God," said Obeidi.
   He was in a Scottish prison. Those who made the three-month prognosis were British doctors. The fact that he is still alive is divine will and has nothing to do with Libya. If you have a direct line to Heaven you can check up there." Meanwhile, renewed US interest in the affair is linked to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and anger among families of the 189 US victims of the Pan Am bombing, the minister argued.
   "The British government should disregard the views of others," Obeidi said.
   "We and you know who those others are. They are those who do not want Britain to look after its own economic interests and wants it to be subjugated to them for ever." Obeidi's busy UK schedule underlines the warmth and intensity of bilateral relations since former Premier Tony Blair met Libyan leader colonel Gaddafi in 2004.
Obeidi has been to the Farnborough air show, near London, met the Scotland Yard counter-terrorism command and Gerald Howarth, the minister for international security strategy, held talks in the House of Lords, and paid a courtesy call on Prince Andrew, who promotes British business in Libya, the paper said.
   "Relations are excellent and getting better every day," he said.
"The problem before was the absence of trust. Now we have restored confidence and there is much greater cooperation." (end) he.asa KUNA 211107 Jul 10NNNN