Clinton pledges to hunt down Lockerbie bombers

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The Independent Online
Dedicating a new memorial to the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie disaster, President Bill Clinton promised yesterday to "never, never relax" pressure to bring to justice the two Libyans accused of perpetrating the bombing of PanAm flight 103, in which 270 people died.

Speaking on a wet afternoon at Arlington national cemetery, Virginia, Mr Clinton declared that the victims "will never be forgotten", and the simple 12ft cairn of Scottish sandstone which now commemorates them at America's most hallowed burial ground was a sign of Washington's determination "to maintain and tighten sanctions" on the Libyan regime.

Some relatives boycotted the occasion in protest at what they believe is a US attempt to close the case. But many more were present in the crowd of some 200 to hear ex-Marine George Williams, President of the Victims of Lockerbie group who lost his 24-year-old only son in the disaster, insist that the ceremony could not be a "trade-off", whereby efforts would be quietly dropped to make Libya hand over the two suspects, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Meghrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, charged in 1991 by Britain and the US with having organised the bombing. Those responsible, Mr Williams said, were "reptilian monsters", not religious warriors but "craven cowards".

"The cairn can never be a veil over this case," the Rev Patrick Keegans of Lockerbie, told the crowd. "We must leave no stone unturned until those responsible are brought to justice." At the end of the hour-long ceremony, bagpipes played as Mr Clinton walked with bowed head around the cairn, a gift from the people of Scotland. It is constructed of 270 rough-hewn stones, one for each of those who died. Of them, 189 were American, while 11 were Lockerbie residents who were killed when parts of the destroyed 747 crashed from the sky into the small Scottish town.

UN sanctions on Libya were imposed in 1992, but Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi has refused to hand over the suspects to a British or American court. Despite White House assurances that Washington is seeking new UN measures against Libya, some victims' families and their lawyers are demanding the US release all files on the case.

Despite the indictment of the two Libyans, allegations persist that Syria, Palestine or Iran were involved in the bombing.