- - Sunday, July 25, 2010

UNITED KINGDOM

Report: U.S. was OK with freeing Megrahi

LONDON | The United States told Scotland it was “far preferable” to free the Lockerbie bomber than have him transferred to a Libyan jail, leaked documents showed Sunday amid renewed U.S. criticism of the release.

Correspondence obtained by the Sunday Times newspaper reveals that despite Washington’s opposition to Scotland’s decision last year to free Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohment al-Megrahi, it considered it the most palatable option.

Megrahi was the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a U.S. jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people, and his release on compassionate grounds — he has terminal cancer — was highly controversial.

The U.S. Senate is re-examining the issue amid claims by U.S. lawmakers that oil giant BP had lobbied for Megrahi’s release, and anger that he remains alive in Libya despite last August being given just three months to live.

The Obama administration has condemned the decision to free Megrahi, but a letter sent by the deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in London just days before his release suggests it accepted the move.

The embassy official, Richard LeBaron, wrote to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and justice officials on Aug. 12 — a week before Megrahi’s release — saying Washington wanted Megrahi to remain in his Scottish jail.

“Nevertheless, if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the U.S. position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose,” Mr. LeBaron wrote.

SOMALIA

8 people killed in shelling of capital

MOGADISHU | A Somali official said Sunday eight people were killed in weekend skirmishes between insurgents and troops in the capital.

Mogadishu ambulance service chief Ali Muse said five people died and seven were wounded late Saturday. A witness saw three more wounded people. Mr. Muse said three died and seven were wounded Sunday when mortars hit a market. He says most of the dead were civilians.

The news came as African leaders discussed Somalia’s conflict at an African Union summit. Somalia became a focus of the summit after 76 people were killed two weeks ago in twin bombings in Uganda. Somali militant group al-Shabab took responsibility for the attacks.

Islamic insurgents control much of Mogadishu and have been trying to topple the fragile government for three years.

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