Libyan defector traveling to Doha meetings

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2011 8:49 AM
Libyan defector traveling to Doha meetings

By Adrian Croft

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Moussa Koussa, a former Libyan foreign minister and long-time top aide to Muammar Gaddafi, is going to Doha for meetings with the Qatari government and Libyan representatives, Britain said on Tuesday.

An international contact group is due to hold talks on Libya's future in the Qatari capital on Wednesday. Moussa will not participate in the meeting but is expected to hold talks on the sidelines, British sources said.

Koussa, the most prominent Libyan defector, sought refuge in Britain on March 30. A friend said he quit in protest at attacks on civilians by Gaddafi's forces.

The former spy chief was later questioned by Scottish police over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, but the British government said he was now free to travel.

"We understand he is traveling today to Doha to meet with the Qatar government and a range of Libyan representatives to offer insight in advance of the contact group meeting," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

"Moussa Koussa is a free individual who can travel to and from the United Kingdom as he wishes," the spokesman said.

British government sources said they expected Koussa to return to Britain after his talks.

Koussa may be looking to see if he can play a role in the rebel movement fighting Gaddafi, according to some reports.

Relatives of some of those killed in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, had pressed for Koussa to be questioned over claims that he had masterminded the attack.

INFORMATION ON BOMBING

U.S. and Scottish authorities had hoped that Koussa would provide vital intelligence on the bombing.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the bombing, said she could not understand why Koussa had been allowed to leave the country.

"I'm astonished that he is apparently free to come and go in this way," she told Reuters.

"This current government has been very quick to condemn the previous one over Lockerbie, but they too have been very hands off. This demonstrates their continuing lack of interest in solving the biggest mass murder we have seen in this country."

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan agent, was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for his part in blowing up the U.S. airliner but was released by the Scottish government in 2009 when he was judged by doctors to be terminally ill with prostate cancer.

Koussa played a key role in the release of Megrahi, who is still alive.

Koussa is believed to be no longer under the supervision of British security agencies who had questioned him at a secret location after his defection to Britain.

In his first public statement since arriving in Britain, Koussa told the BBC on Monday his country could become "a new Somalia" unless all sides involved in the conflict stopped it from descending into civil war.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir and William Maclean in London; Editing by Jeffrey Heller)