Megrahi release a mistake, says Obama

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President Barack Obama today described the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi as a "mistake" and called on the Libyan government to place him under house arrest.

In a live radio interview, the president said the United States administration had been in contact with the Scottish Government to register its objection to the move.

He also called on Libya to ensure Megrahi is not given a welcome back to his home country after being released today from a Scottish prison.

The Lockerbie bomber flew out of Britain today after being freed on compassionate grounds by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

In the build-up to the announcement, Mr MacAskill came under intense US pressure to keep Megrahi behind bars, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lobbying against a decision she said was "absolutely wrong".

Of the 270 victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, 189 were American.

Mr Obama said he had contacted families of the deceased and indicated to them that the release was inappropriate.

He added: "We have been in contact with the Scottish Government indicating that we object to this. We thought it was a mistake."

The President continued: "We are now contacting the Libyan government to make sure that if this transfer has taken place, he is not welcomed back in some way but should instead be under house arrest."