Ten years on, Lockerbie still awaits its moment of justice and truth

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IT WAS a poignant moment. As the people of Lockerbie gathered at the town's Dryfesdale Cemetery yesterday, with the American relatives of those who perished on Pan Am flight 103, a child clasped the hand of an adult and gazed up at the border skies in which the Boeing 747 was blown apart exactly 10 years ago.

Yesterday was an international day of remembrance for the 259 passengers who died in the terrorist attack, and the 11 Lockerbie victims killed when the plane crashed to earth. While some 20 American families travelled to Scotland, British relatives of the bomb victims came together at Westminster Cathedral.

The Westminster gathering was designed to take attention away from Lockerbie, where many would now like the town to move on from the tragedy.

Even Bill Clinton took a few moments away from the upheavals of presidential impeachment and the Iraq crisis to remember the crash. Under clammy skies he led a short service at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, and dedicated a cairn of 270 stones to the dead - one for every victim.

Another service was held simultaneously in Syracuse, in upstate New York, on the campus of the city university that lost 35 students when the plane was bombed out of the sky. They had been returning home for the Christmas holidays.

Yesterday was not just a day of pain, but also of frustration Ten years after the tragedy Western governments are yet to deliver justice to the families of those who died.

Though there have been many false dawns, these are more hopeful times. The US and British governments have agreed to proposals for Scottish justice to be exercised on foreign soil and Libya has backed the scheme for two of its nationals - suspects in the outrage - to be tried by an international court.

Yesterday the politicians were still promising the families they would bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice. Tony Blair, promising to enlist the help of South African president Nelson Mandela to lobby the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Colonel Gaddafi was meanwhile telling Dutch television he wanted the men accused of planting the Lockerbie bomb tried by an international court.

The diplomatic initiatives have warmed the heart of those who have fought to keep the atrocity in the public eye. But the past decade has also built up distrust of politicians, with families now convinced that their own governments failed to pass on warnings that a terrorist attack was imminent.

Politicians, it seems, continue to speak with forked tongues. Yesterday's statement by Colonel Gaddafi actually muddied the waters. For he called for judges from "America, Libya, England and other countries" to be involved when the plan acceptable to the US and Britain specifies three Scottish judges.

The frustration with politicians was alluded to yesterday at Dryfesdale during the low key ceremony at which the sole official event was the laying of a wreath by the Duke of Edinburgh at the town's cemetery.

Fr Patrick Keegans, the priest who provided spiritual help to the victims's families, spoke almost directly to the dead. "You will see us laying wreaths at your stone," he said. "We want you to be sure that these wreaths are not hollow empty gestures but a statement and declaration full of promise.

"Ten years ago, for you and for us, a bomb was ticking. Know this, there is another bomb ticking, the irresistible bomb of justice and truth. Know this, that our wreath-laying today is not a symbolic gesture. It is a declaration that we will not rest until we have justice and truth, until all responsible for your deaths are held accountable."

Yesterday, the families made yet another appeal to their politicians to get it right this time. They asked Mr Blair and President Clinton not to jeopardise the prospect of a trial of the two Libyan suspects with threats of renewed military action in the Middle East in the wake of the Iraqi bombings.