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Libya will not arm IRA again, Gaddafi aide says

LIBYA will never support the IRA with arms again but remains sympathetic to their cause, according to the country's foreign minister. Said Mujbar, one of the most senior of Col Muammar Gaddafi's lieutenants, admitted in an exclusive interview that Libya had supported the Provisionals for two periods during the 1980s.

He also said much of the information passed to the Government by the Libyans last year describing their relationship with the IRA was bogus.

Britain has had no diplomatic relations with Libya since the killing of Constable Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. In a documentary to be broadcast tonight on Channel 4, it is disclosed that one of Britain's biggest defence companies conspired to breach the arms embargo that followed the murder. Executives from Plessey conspired to sell military radios to Tripoli in 1986, allegedly with the knowledge of the British government.

Mr Mujbar, formerly Libya's envoy in Paris and now ranked third in the regime's hierarchy, claims that Tripoli is anxious to improve relations with Britain and is prepared to meet any demand London might make. He said that the two men wanted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie were prepared to stand trial in a Scottish court sitting in the Hague.

The Foreign Office minister Douglas Hogg, also interviewed for the documentary, dismissed this offer. Britain wants the two men to stand trial in either the UK or the US.

The Libyan minister detailed for the first time to Western media the history of the country's relationship with the IRA: 'We supported Ireland at the beginning as a national liberation movement. Until the Irish people, Irish movement or the IRA went into a bombing spree in London, then we stopped.

'We stopped because of two reasons, moral and selfish. The moral one is that we cannot agree that we be helpers of those who go out and kill people indiscriminately . . . to go to London which is not in Ireland and to start killing people, this is something we can never condone . . . the selfish one is that we have thousands of Libyan students there (in the UK).'

Mr Mujbar said arms supplies restarted after the American bombing of Tripoli in 1986, in which more than 30 Libyans died. The US jets flew from British bases. 'We have no strategic plans to go there and bomb you otherwise we would have done it . . . (but) we have somebody who's determined to kill British soldiers.'

He claimed that this support had stopped: 'You can be certain that at no point in time in the future will we support the IRA militarily.'

However, he said that the regime would not supply any new information on its relationship with the IRA to Britain.

Frontline, Channel 4, 9pm.