South Scotland

Koussa Lockerbie interview sought by prosecutors

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Media captionAlex Salmond: "Koussa may have information about Lockerbie"

Prosecutors in Scotland have requested an interview with the Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa in connection with the Lockerbie bombing.

The Crown Office in Scotland said it had informed the Foreign Office.

Mr Koussa arrived at Farnborough Airport from Tunisia on Wednesday saying he was no longer willing to represent the Libyan regime internationally.

He is continuing to be questioned by intelligence and diplomatic officials.

Mr Koussa's reported defection was earlier described as a "great day" for families of Lockerbie bombing victims by Jim Swire who lost his daughter Flora in the atrocity.

He said Mr Koussa was at the heart of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's government and "could tell us everything".

A total of 270 people died when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988.

Mr Swire said the relatives of those who died "should be rejoicing".

Regime 'crumbling'

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr Koussa, a former leading official of the Libyan Intelligence Service, would not be offered any immunity from British or international justice.

Image caption Prosecutors in Scotland want to speak to Moussa Koussa in connection with the Lockerbie bombing

He said Mr Koussa's arrival, "under his own free will", showed the Gaddafi regime was "fragmented, under pressure and crumbling from within".

In the 1980s Mr Koussa was a leading member of the Libyan Bureau for External Security (the Mathaba) which has been linked to the Lockerbie bombing.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi's remains the only man convicted of the atrocity.

Mr Swire welcomed the arrival in Britain of Mr Koussa who he said "was at the centre of Gaddafi's inner circle".

"This is a guy who knows everything," he said.

"I think this is a fantastic day for those who seek the truth about Lockerbie."

Mr Swire, who met Mr Koussa during a visit to Libya in 1998, said he was "extremely frightening - more frightening than Gaddafi himself".

He said: "He was clearly running things.

"If Libya was involved in Lockerbie, he can tell us how they carried out the atrocity and why.

"I would be appalled if by now the Scottish police are not in England interviewing Mr Koussa - it is a great day for us."

Police investigating the Lockerbie bombing told the BBC they would very much like to speak to Mr Koussa.

The chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway Police, Patrick Shearer said it would be unusual if they did not seek the opportunity to speak to a senior and long standing member of the government in Libya.

'Trusted counsellor'

On his blog, one of the architects of the Lockerbie trial, Professor Emeritus Robert Black of Edinburgh University, questioned whether Mr Koussa had actually defected.

"There are some indications that this may be a diplomatic mission - negotiating an exit strategy for the Gaddafi regime - rather than a defection," he wrote.

He pointed out that Mr Koussa had not brought his family and had been accompanied on part of his journey by "a trusted counsellor" of Col Gaddafi.

He added: "If Moussa had defected, he would surely have negotiated immunity from prosecution for any personal involvement in Lockerbie (if Libya was implicated in any capacity, Moussa would inevitably have been personally involved).

"According to Foreign Secretary William Hague, no such immunity has been granted.

"This suggests that his visit is already covered by diplomatic immunity."

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said Mr Koussa's resignation revealed a "nervousness" among senior figures but would be dismissed by the regime as an "individual decision".

He said Mr Koussa had been, for a time, the only person in Col Gaddafi's inner circle unrelated to him by blood or marriage, but he had been "out of the loop" for about a year after a row with one of Col Gaddafi's sons.

'Major blow'

Ibrahim El Mayet, a member of Libya British Relations Group, said Mr Koussa's apparent defection was a "major blow" to the Gaddafi regime.

But he said it was important not to forget "who he is and what he has done".

"He's a core member of Gaddafi's regime and has been implicated in many of the crimes and atrocities committed by the regime over the years," he said.

Oliver Miles, former British ambassador in Tripoli, said Mr Koussa's arrival in Britain was politically significant, as the military situation in Libya was nearing a stand-off.

Rebels opposed to Col Gaddafi's rule and fighting Libyan government forces are continuing to lose ground and are retreating from their former strongholds along the eastern coast of Libya.

The UK has been involved in more than 160 aerial missions, as well as missile strikes, over Libya since coalition operations began on 19 March following a UN resolution.