- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

LOCKERBIE FEARS

Relatives of the victims of an airliner Libyan terrorists blew up over Scotland 20 years ago are appealing to British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald for information on any secret talks to release the convicted mastermind of the attack to Libya.

“I have a great fear that your government may revisit promises made concerning the transfer of the convicted bomber back to Libya,” Francis J. Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103, said in a letter to Mr. Sheinwald on Friday.

Mr. Duggan said he is concerned by newspaper reports that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi might be included in a treaty between Britain and Libya to transfer other Libyan prisoners held in British jails to Libya. The treaty is expected to be considered by the British Parliament in April.

Mr. Duggan, a Washington lawyer, said he has been unable to “determine, from a reading of the treaty, whether al-Megrahi was specifically considered during the negotiations leading up to the agreement.”

“There were many British citizens killed on Dec. 21, 1988, and relatives of those passengers on Pan Am 103 were assured that the proposed treaty did not cover the Lockerbie bomber,” Mr. Duggan said, adding that American relatives of the victims are also petitioning the U.S. government to block any transfer of Megrahi to Libya.

Al-Megrahi, who has described himself as a former head of Libyan intelligence, was sentenced to a term of 27 years to life after he was convicted of plotting the midair disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland. His supporters are demanding his transfer to Libya because the 56-year-old prisoner has prostate cancer.

The Herald newspaper of Glasgow, Scotland, first reported in 2005 that British authorities were considering releasing al-Megrahi to Libya to serve out his sentence there. Al-Megrahi lost an appeal of his conviction in 2002, but last year the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ordered another review of his conviction.

FRIENDLY TALKS

The latest round of U.N. talks over a contentious dispute between Greece and Macedonia was surprisingly “friendly and positive,” but negotiators made no progress on a new name for Greece’s northern neighbor, according to the Macedonian ambassador.

Zoran Jolevski, Macedonia’s ambassador to the United States and its envoy to the talks, reported that “no new proposals were put forward” last week by Matthew Nimetz, the U.N. envoy mediating the negotiations. However, he added, “The meeting was conducted in a friendly and positive manner.”

The 18-year-old dispute concerns Greece’s objections to its northern neighbor using the name, “Macedonia,” which is historically linked to a province of Greece. The United Nations admitted Macedonia under the name of “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” The United States and some other nations have recognized the country as the “Republic of Macedonia.”

Greece has accused Macedonia of deliberately aggravating relations by insisting on using that name and has offered alternatives that have been rejected by Macedonia.

Mr. Jolevski said he defended Macedonia’s claim to the name and noted that his government is proceeding on reforms to meet requirements for joining NATO.

“I said the identity and dignity of Macedonia’s citizens must be protected, since they have been committed to the reform process in meeting conditions for the NATO membership invitation,” he told the Voice of America after the talks ended last week. Greece also says the country’s name insults its identity and dignity.

Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis suggested another meeting after Greece holds elections in June for the European Parliament. Macedonia is preparing for presidential and mayoral elections in March.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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