Libya's Lockerbie

August 23, 2010

Everyday I get a Libya google news alert. For the past couple of days all of the news has centered around the Lockerbie bomber. August 20 marked the one-year anniversary of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish jail. Al-Megrahi is the only person convicted of bombing a 1988 Pan-Am airplane as it flew over the Scotland town of Lockerbie. Scottish officials released him because they said he was quickly dying of cancer. Well wishers greeted him when he returned to Libya. A year later, Al-Megrahi is still alive. Now U.S. senators are among those calling for an investigation of his release. Several news stories have also emerged with UK officials warning Libya not to have any celebrations around the one-year anniversary of Al-Megrahi's release. It's been interesting reading coverage from London and the U.S. Here in Tripoli, I haven't seen any celebrations. The only apparent celebration going on is Ramadan. I suspect the Libyan government doesn't want to fall out again with the international community over Lockerbie. After the 1988 bombing, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya. That led to political and economic isolation of the oil-rich country. By 2003 Libya accepted full responsibility for the airline bombing and provided compensation to the victims' families. The country also denounced weapons of mass destruction. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. When I told most people about my trip to Libya, they remembered the 1980s-era antagonism between Qaddafi and Reagan. Things have changed. There's now a U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and the two countries have restored diplomatic ties. Libya is trying to move out of the pariah-state stigma. In Tripoli, there's a buzz of construction - including from the Chinese - and new hotels are being built. But continued unanswered questions and focus about Lockerbie could potentially threaten international inroads. Natalie is traveling to Libya under a fellowship from the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College.

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