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Michael McGowan: The best tribute to the 270 victims of Lockerbie is to find out the truth

GORDON Brown is angry and repulsed at the reception that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi received in Libya. Jack Straw is angry that it has been said that the release was imposed on Scotland by London. And Peter Mandelson is angry at the claim that the prisoner release was part of a trade deal.

What about the anger of the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie whose tragic losses are being ignored and who are still being denied a full public inquiry into the atrocity?

Only one man has been convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and yet the world knows that the horrific act of terrorism was not simply the

act of a single individual who acted alone.

Support for an independent inquiry into Lockerbie would be welcome, besides an end to the posturing and propaganda from the United States, UK, and Libya.

The issues of the Libyan reception, and even the Scottish release, are sidelines compared with the need to establish the truth behind Lockerbie and the determination to root out acts of terrorism.

The prevention of future acts of terrorism has to be the main consideration and that is what we must demand from political leadership in the UK, Libya, the US and elsewhere.

The anger and revulsion of Gordon Brown at the Libyan reception of the Lockerbie bomber, though commendable, does not help. His resolve to fight and root out terrorism is welcome but only if his actions are as good as his words.

Every word spoken about the Lockerbie bombing and the return of Megrahi to Libya expresses opposition to terrorism and concern for the families of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing, but no mention is made about any future action.

I am also personally angry at the death of Bernt Carlsson, who I was with shortly before he checked in on to Flight Pan Am 103. As President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, I had invited Bernt Carlsson, the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, to call in at Brussels in December 1988.

He was on his way back to the United States from Namibia and agreed to address members of the Development Committee, which he did. In Brussels, he spoke about his hopes for an independent Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa to a packed meeting of MEPs.

And afterwards he confirmed his acceptance to visit Leeds the following year to give the 1989 Peace Lecture in honour of Olof Palme, the former Swedish Prime Minister, who was murdered in Stockholm on February 26, 1986.

He said how much he was looking forward to coming to Leeds to pay tribute to his fellow Swede with whom he had worked closely as international secretary of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, and also as a special adviser to Palme.

Bernt Carlsson did not make that visit to Leeds in 1989. He was a passenger on Pan Am Flight 103 and he died when the plane was blown up over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.

He was a giant of diplomacy, gentle, quiet, but a tough negotiator. His death, like that of his friend and fellow Swede, Prime Minister Palme, who was murdered in the street in Stockholm returning with his wife from a night at the cinema, was the result of a terrorist act and remains a mystery.

A call by the British Government for an independent inquiry led by the United Nations to find out the truth about Pan Am flight 103 is urgently required. We owe it to the families of the victims of Lockerbie and the international community to identify those responsible.

That Bernt Carlsson was on that plane should be an extra incentive for the UN to take action in view of the fact that this impressive diplomat was dealing with some of the most sensitive and violent situations being perpetrated by the brutal apartheid regime in both South Africa and Namibia, besides his work in the Middle East.

The best tribute to the lives and families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie, including Bernt Carlsson, and the most positive action for the international community to take against terrorism, is to launch an independent inquiry into this gross act of mass murder. Nothing less will suffice.

Michael McGowan is the former MEP for Leeds and President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

 
 
 

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