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Lockerbie bomber release linked to trade

LONDON, Aug 26 – Britain denied allegations that the release of Libyan Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was linked to trade deals with Tripoli.

Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, said in a television interview that Megrahi’s release was linked to Britain’s interest in Libya’s oil and gas reserves.

But a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street office firmly denied the claims.

"There is no deal. That is the government’s position," a spokesman told AFP.

"The position remains the same as we have been making clear: this has always been a matter for the Scottish executive and ministers," he added.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office also rejected the allegations.

"There is no deal," the spokesman told AFP.

"All decisions relating to Megrahi’s case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland and the Scottish judicial authorities.

"No deal has been made between the UK government and Libya in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in the country."

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Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Friday angrily refuted suggestions that the British government wanted Megrahi freed so that commercial relations with oil-rich Libya could be improved.

"I really reject that entirely," he said. "That is a slur both on myself and the government."

Speculation that there had been some form of agreement was fuelled by the disclosure that Britain’s Business Secretary Lord Peter Mandelson met Seif al-Islam during his recent holiday on the Greek island of Corfu.

Lord David Trefgarne, a former trade minister who chairs the Libyan-British Business Council, said there would be "benefits" for British firms from the decision to release Megrahi.

"In Libya, business matters and political matters are inextricably entwined. Therefore commercial decisions are often taken with political considerations in mind," he told The Independent newspaper.

He said British business links with Libya had not developed as quickly as had been hoped.

"Perhaps now, with what I would assume to be the final resolution of the Lockerbie affair as far as the Libyans are concerned, maybe they will move forward a little more swiftly," he said.

At least 150 British businesses operate in Libya, including oil firms BP and Shell, plus retailer Marks and Spencer, according to UK Trade and Investment.

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