NEW YORK – Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi said he could "comprehend" the anger directed at him by Americans who lost relatives in the Lockerbie bombing, trying to strike a conciliatory tone a day after calling the United Nations Security Council a "terror council."
In an hour-long interview with The Wall Street Journal, Col. Qaddafi said he hoped to build a new era of relations with President Barack Obama — whom he called "my son" during the same U.N. address — and said he wanted to place his nation's decades-long conflict with Washington in the past.
The Libyan strongman denied his government had purposefully stoked nationalist sentiment surrounding the return home of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. Megrahi, who has cancer, was released by Scottish authorities last month on humanitarian grounds.
Lockerbie families have particularly criticized the British and Scottish governments for the release of Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer. Legislators in the U.S. and U.K. have called for inquiries into whether the move was tied to lucrative Libyan oil deals. Libyan and U.K. leaders have denied this.
Col. Qaddafi also said Megrahi's release came through proper legal channels. But he added that British companies have benefited in the past from the absence of U.S. firms inside Libya. Sanctions imposed on Libya after the Lockerbie bombing barred American oil companies from operating in the North African country until 2004.
"You see, Britain, even though it makes it look like it's in alliance with America, and being America's ally, kept its companies in Libya and they were doing business when the American companies left the Libyan market," Col. Qaddafi said.