Evidence grows of Blair's links with Gaddafi

The former prime minister met twice with the Libyan leader after the Lockerbie bombing

Brian Brady,Whitehall Editor
Sunday 18 September 2011 10:47 BST
The former PM Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi shake hands on 29 May
2007 after an hour long meeting
The former PM Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi shake hands on 29 May 2007 after an hour long meeting (AP)

Tony Blair's shadowy links with Muammar Gaddafi were thrust into the spotlight again last night after it emerged that he met the former Libyan dictator twice for secret talks in the run-up to the release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.

A collection of documents found in Tripoli have revealed that Mr Blair was flown to Libya twice on one of Colonel Gaddafi's private jets after he left office in the UK, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph. In the letters and emails, Mr Blair's private office repeatedly refers to Gaddafi as "The Leader".

The meetings, in 2008 and 2009, came at a time when Libya was threatening to cut all business links with the UK if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi stayed in a British jail.

The correspondence, between Mr Blair's office, the British ambassador in Tripoli and the Libyan ambassador in London, raise possible conflicts of interest regarding his roles as Middle East peace envoy, philanthropist and consultant.

The former prime minister, who brought a US billionaire to one of the meetings, makes no reference to the trips on any of his websites.

Mr Blair's office last night denied that the visits were business-related. A spokesman confirmed that Megrahi's situation was raised at the meetings, but insisted that Mr Blair always told the Libyans that the prisoner's status was a matter for the Scottish Executive. Megrahi, who has cancer, was eventually released on health grounds in August 2009 after doctors judged that he had only three months to live.

But Pam Dix, whose brother died in the Lockerbie bombing, said yesterday: "These meetings ... are disturbing, and details of what was discussed should now be made public. I am astonished Tony Blair continued to have meetings like this out of office."

The meetings took place at a time of intense negotiations with Colonel Gaddafi's regime over Megrahi's release, after he was convicted of murdering 270 people in the single biggest terrorist atrocity committed in Britain.

In both 2008 and 2009, the documents show Mr Blair negotiated to fly to the Libyan capital from Sierra Leone, in a jet provided by Colonel Gaddafi. In 2008, Mr Blair, having met the Libyan leader, arranged to fly on to Luton on a Libyan jet.

The first letter was sent on writing paper headed "Office of the Quartet Representative", Mr Blair's title as a Middle East peace envoy, which he took up after he resigned as prime minister in June 2007.

The letter, written on 2 June 2008, was sent to Omar Jelban, Libya's ambassador to Britain. It was written by Gavin Mackay, then based at Mr Blair's London office in Grosvenor Square, and stated: "Let me begin my [sic] saying that Mr Blair is delighted that The Leader is likely to be able to see him during the afternoon of 10 June and he is most grateful that the Libyan authorities have kindly offered an aircraft to take him from Freetown to Tripoli and back to London."

Details of the 2009 meeting with colonel Gaddafi are contained in an exchange of emails between Victoria Gould, Mr Blair's events organiser, and Sir Vincent Fean, former British ambassador to Libya. The correspondence shows Tim Collins, a billionaire friend of Mr Blair, attended.

A spokesman for Tony Blair said last night: "Tony Blair has never had any role, either formal or informal, paid or unpaid, with the Libyan Investment Authority or the Government of Libya and he has no commercial relationship with any Libyan company or entity.

"The subject of the conversations during Mr Blair's occasional visits was primarily Africa, as Libya was for a time head of the African Union; but also the Middle East and how Libya should reform and open up. At the time, governments around the world were engaging with Libya."

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