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Scottish police in secret visit to Tripoli

SCOTTISH police have secretly travelled to Libya with the FBI for talks with senior members of the country's government as part of their investigation into the Lockerbie bombing.

A four-person delegation from Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Crown Office, accompanied by an FBI delegation from Washington, had discussions with senior officials in Tripoli over the atrocity which claimed 270 lives on December 21, 1988.

The visit came after Prime Minister David Cameron announced in January the UK Government was to help obtain visas for the police officers. The talks "went very well", UK Government sources said.

Scotland's Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, QC, said: "The purpose of the meetings was to discuss US and Scottish requests for co-operation in the ongoing investigation and to agree how these would be progressed.

"The discussions were positive and it is hoped there will be further progress as a result."

The news emerged a day after the Libyan Government said the Lockerbie case was closed.

Hameda al Magery, Deputy Justice Minister, reportedly said: "Britain and America are asking us to reopen this file. But this is something of the past. This is over. We want to move forward to build a new future and not to look back at Gaddafi's black history."

He added: "This case was closed and both UK and US governments agreed to this. They had their compensation."

Mr Mulholland added: "The Libyan authorities did raise the issue of compensation, as today's press reports have indicated, and it was reiterated by the joint delegation that the investigation was focused on identifying others involved in this act of state-sponsored terrorism.

"As the investigation remains live, it would not be appropriate to offer further comment."

Experts warned the noises coming from the Libyan Government could signal a setback in relations.

There are also fears they could jeopardise other investigations by UK police forces, including the one into the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984 and into the victims of IRA semtex bombings in Northern Ireland.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, is the only individual to have been convicted of the bombing. He died last year from cancer after being freed from prison to return to Tripoli on compassionate grounds.

Many of the families of the British victims are unconvinced of his guilt.

The architect of Megrahi's trial at Camp Zeist in 2000 warned the Libyan minister's comments could be a sign of growing tensions.

Robert Black, Emeritus Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, said: "It could be a setback for everyone, whether you're convinced Megrahi is innocent or not."

A UK Government source added: "The investigation into the Lockerbie case remains open."

However, Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, said: "I think the police are almost certainly wasting their time and public money by going to Tripoli.

"If they are going to cement the case against Megrahi, then it is a wild goose chase."

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