Gaddafi might seek 'revenge', warns Ken Clarke

Wreckage of Pan Am flight 103 in Lockerbie
Image caption Some 270 people died in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing

Britain has a real interest in stopping Col Gaddafi staying in power in Libya and seeking revenge, Ken Clarke says.

The justice secretary said the Lockerbie bombing - in which 270 people died in 1988 - meant people in Britain remembered the "curse of Gaddafi".

Coalition forces have been attacking targets in Libya for a seventh night.

Mr Clarke told the Guardian he thought British people would support the action but that he was "not totally convinced anyone knows where we are going now".

'Tribal country'

British Tornado and Typhoon aircraft have been helping enforce a no-fly zone over Libya which was authorised by the UN to protect civilians during fighting between rebels and Col Gaddafi's forces.

Mr Clarke said: "We do have a particular interest in the [region], which is Lockerbie.

"The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi - Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that."

Col Gaddafi has been accused of ordering Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to bomb Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988. Megrahi was jailed over the attack in 2001 but has since been released on compassionate grounds.

Mr Clarke said he thought the British people would support the action "as long as they are satisfied we are doing it for reasons we said, and we are not getting ourselves into the occupation of another complicated tribal country of uncertain politics".

But he said that he was "still not totally convinced anyone knows where we are going now."

Nato is taking over control of enforcing the no-fly zone in the coming days, and Prime Minister David Cameron has said he expects the alliance to take full command "shortly".

That would mean Nato also attacking Col Gaddafi's ground forces if they were seen to be threatening civilians.

Rebels regained control of the eastern town of Ajdabiya on Saturday.

Libyan government minister Khaled Kaim said regime forces pulled out after being bombed by coalition aircraft, and he accused them of directly aiding the rebels.

In his interview, Mr Clarke also addresses the question of whether he fell asleep during Chancellor George Osborne's Budget speech on Wednesday.

"I sat there, snuggled in alongside my colleagues, and I was conscious of nodding for a moment," he said.

"I assure you it wasn't lack of interest. Nor was it George's delivery," he said. "But I had had a bad night the night before. I'm having gout in my wrist."