Moussa Koussa 'transit lounge' warning

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The coalition was accused of turning Britain into a "transit lounge for alleged war criminals" today after it was disclosed that Libyan defector Moussa Koussa had been allowed to leave the country.

Muammar Gaddafi's former right-hand man is travelling to Qatar ahead of a meeting of the international alliance's Contact Group tomorrow.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said Koussa was "free to come and go", and would be seeing representatives of the Doha government and others to "offer insights" on the situation.

But Tory MP Robert Halfon, whose family fled Libya when Gaddafi took power, insisted the coalition was repeating mistakes made with Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

"Many people will be very anxious that Britain is being used as a transit lounge for alleged war criminals," Mr Halfon said.

"We should learn from the release of Megrahi that we should not release those people associated with Gaddafi or let them out of the UK until they have faced the full course of the law, whether in British courts or international courts."

Mr Koussa, who is believed to have been Libyan intelligence chief at the time of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since fleeing the crisis-torn country for the UK.

In a prepared statement to the BBC, he said: "I ask everybody, all the parties, to avoid taking Libya into a civil war.

"This would lead to so much blood and Libya will be a new Somalia.2

He added: "More than that, we refuse to divide Libya.

"The unity of Libya is essential to any solution and settlement for Libya."

In his statement, which did not directly criticise Col Gaddafi, he continued: "The solution in Libya will come from the Libyans themselves, and through discussion and democratic dialogue."

Mr Koussa made the comments in Arabic, which was translated for the broadcast.

The BBC said the interview took place at a secret location in central London.

Mr Koussa said he had been "devoted" to his work for 30 years under Col Gaddafi and was confident that it was serving the Libyan people.

But, he said, after recent events "things changed and I couldn't continue".

"I know that what I did to resign will cause me problems, but I'm ready to make that sacrifice for the sake of my country," he added.

He said he came to the UK because he had "respect" for the people there, adding: "The people have historic relations with the Libyan people and we look to them as a friendly people, they are our friends."

His comments came after Libyan rebels, backed by European leaders, rejected a ceasefire proposal by African Union mediators because it did not insist that Col Gaddafi relinquish power.

A day after assurances that the dictator had accepted the truce, his forces reportedly battered rebel-held Misrata and its Mediterranean port with artillery fire which killed six people.

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, said: "Mr Moussa Koussa was interviewed by Scottish police last Thursday as a potential witness in the Lockerbie investigation.

"He has not been under Scottish jurisdiction, and therefore the Crown Office has no power over his movements.

"However, we have every reason to believe that the Scottish authorities will be able to interview him again if required."

Susan Cohen, who lost her 20 year-old daughter Theodora in the Lockerbie bombing, said the British Government had now "lost all credibility".

Speaking from her home in New Jersey, she said she was "concerned" about the actions of the UK Government and called for the US to intervene.

She said: "I was hoping that the CIA would be able to speak with Moussa Koussa.

"After what happened with the release of Megrahi I no longer trust the British - the English or the Scots - on this.

"I want the US involved in this. After they let Megrahi out, why should we trust the Scots or the English to handle this?

"To me Moussa Koussa is nowhere near as important as Gaddafi, but he is helpful to us in terms of information he has on Lockerbie. That is very, very important.

"My concerns are how long he is going for, and whether he will come back.

"I am mostly worried about how much access the Americans will have to him and how much he will share with us, and when this information about Lockerbie will become public.

"How can we trust the British anymore? I think they have lost all credibility."