Freed Lockerbie Libyan heads home
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Libyan acquitted of the Lockerbie bombing has left the Netherlands and is on a flight to Libya.
The Dutch Justice Ministry said Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah left Soesterberg airbase at 11:30 a.m. (1030 GMT) on Thursday on a flight operated by Royal Netherlands Airforce.
Fhimah flies home one day after he was acquitted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in which 270 people died.
Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, 48, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment but he will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
Libya is facing mounting pressure to pay compensation to victims' families following the verdict.
Tripoli has called for a complete lifting of U.N. sanctions imposed after the Lockerbie bombing, and said it sought better relations with the United States.
However, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a meeting with members of Congress that Libya should remain isolated until Moammar Gadhafi agrees to "accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families."
U.S. and British officials say they will also continue to investigate the bombing.
Jeremy Greenstock, the British U.N. ambassador, said the main focus of future discussions between the United States, Britain and Libya would be on compensation and the Libyan government's accepting responsibility for the actions of its officials.
The British government is expected to push for $700 million compensation for the victims' families.
Libya's ambassador to Britain said on Thursday that Libya might consider paying compensation once the appeal process was over.
"After the appeal result, in that time we can speak about compensation and we will fulfil our duty as we said before to the Security Council," Ambassador Mohammed al-Zwai told the BBC. "But we still think not now."
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Libya must accept responsibility for what Megrahi did and must pay before sanctions could be lifted.
However, he said he did not expect further steps to take place before the conclusion of the appeal in Megrahi's case at Camp Zeist, the Netherlands -- a process he said might take most of the rest of this year.
Libya's foreign ministry spokesman Hassouna Chiouch told a news conference: "The sanctions imposed on Libya must be lifted completely because the Lockerbie case was used as a pretext to delay their lifting.
"Now that the court has ended the case, the sanctions must be lifted completely.
"We extend our hand to the United States to build relations based on mutual respect and benefit for the two parties," Chiouch said.
In Tripoli, Libya, CNN's Brent Sadler reported that authorities said the verdict did not prove the country's leadership had anything to do with the attack and continued to call it the act of outlaws.
State television cast the trial as a triumph for the Libyan people "over arrogance, aggression and imperialism and all attempts to make them bow down."
Abuzed Dorda, Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, said Libya respected the verdict, but he said there would be an appeal. "Libya as a state has nothing to do at all with this case at all," he told CNN.
Families of some of the 189 American victims said they hoped further proof of the involvement by Gadhafi's regime would emerge in U.S. civil suits seeking compensation, in which the standards of proof will be more relaxed than in the Scottish court.
They called for Bush to support U.N. sanctions, which have been suspended, and to support their pending lawsuits.
A lawyer for the U.S. victims' families, Jim Kreindler, said the verdict would allow the families to move forward with a case filed against Libya in September 1996 seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
Part of the case against the country was proven, Kreindler said, when the bomb was traced back to Malta.
He said the families needed a second batch of evidence to move the case forward, which he said they got with Wednesday's verdict.
Kreindler said the victims' families expect a judgment against Libya with a multi-billion dollar settlement. The money would come from Libyan assets frozen in the United States.
U.N. sanctions, including a ban on air travel to and from Libya, were suspended -- but not lifted -- in April 1999 when the two suspects were handed over to the United Nations for trial.
If the sanctions are to be lifted, officials say Libya must renounce terrorism and pay compensation to the families of the victims of the bombing.
The United States also has imposed unilateral sanctions against Libya, citing state support of terrorism. American sanctions include restrictions on trade and travel and a ban on U.S. oil companies from operating there.
Megrahi's lawyers have 14 days to appeal. Any challenge would be heard before a five-judge panel at Camp Zeist within the next half year, officials say.
Reuters contributed to this report.
CNN's Richard Blystone at Camp Zeist
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