Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi Meets Condi in DC

Rice to meet Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi

Washington, November 19 (QNA) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet on Thursday with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the Libyan Leader's son, a senior official at the U.S. State Department said.

Another U.S. official announced on Monday that the meeting will be on Tuesday, however, Gaddafi's son met with Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East David Welch.

Saif al-Islam runs the Gaddafi Foundation which has played an important role to resolve the conflict between Washington and Tripoli on the compensations for the terrorism victims in the eighties of the last century.

On Monday, U.S. President George W. Bush made a phone call with Libyan Leader Muammar al-Gaddafi to voice his satisfaction that Libya had settled a long-standing dispute over terrorist attacks and that "this agreement should help to bring a painful chapter in the history between our two countries closer to closure". (QNA)

President Bush calls Gadhafi

November 17, 2008

Washington - President George W Bush called Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to voice his satisfaction with a US$1,5-billion payment that Tripoli made to settle a long-standing dispute over terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a Pan Am jet over Scotland, the White House said on Monday.

In their conversation, Bush and Gaddafi "discussed that this agreement should help to bring a painful chapter in the history between our two countries closer to closure", White House spokesperson Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.

Libya's October 31 payment cleared the last hurdle in restoration of full normalisation of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli.

The money will go into a $1,8-billion fund that will pay $1,5-billion in claims for the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 bombing of a German disco.

Another $300-million will go to Libyan victims of US airstrikes ordered in retaliation for the disco bombing.

David Welch, a State department diplomat who negotiated the agreement, said at the time that payments to US victims' families should start within days, and family groups hailed the news.

"While we will always mourn the loss of life as a result of past terrorist activities, the settlement agreement is an important step in repairing the relationship between Libya and the United States," said the statement that Johndroe released on Monday.

"Libya has taken important steps on the road to normalising its relations with the international community, beginning with its renunciation in 2003 of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," the statement said.

"The United States will continue to work on the bilateral relationship with Libya, with the aim of establishing a dialogue that encompasses all subjects, including human rights reform and the fight against terrorism." - Sapa-AP

17 Nov. 2008 VOA News:

The White House said President George Bush has called Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to thank him for following through on a pledge that settles a long-standing dispute between the two countries over terrorist attacks in the 1980s.

A White House spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, Monday said the two leaders agreed that the deal should help bring "a painful chapter in the history" between the two countries "closer to closure."

On October 31, Libya paid $1.5 billion into a fund for families of the victims of Libyan-backed terrorist attacks, including the 1988 downing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco.

The move cleared the final obstacle in full normalization of diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli. As part of
the deal, President Bush signed an executive order granting Libya immunity from any pending legal action in U.S. courts.

The White House said the United States will keep working on its relationship with Libya, with the goal of establishing a dialogue that "includes all subjects" -- including human rights, reform and the fight against terrorism.

After the Berlin disco bombing, the U.S. carried out retaliatory air strikes on Libya's capital and on the city of Benghazi in 1986. Washington is providing $300 million to a fund to compensate Libyan victims of those strikes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Victims of Pan Am Flight 103

Justice for families of Pan Am 103 - One Readers's View - Philadelphia Inquirer
Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Dec. 21, 1988, my brother was killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 when it was bombed by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two decades later, my family and the families of the 189 other Americans killed on that flight are finally able to claim some form of justice for our lost loved ones.

The Scottish high court convictedf one Libyan intelligence officer for his involvement after the initial investigation, but the complexities of a crime perpetrated by a foreign government made it impossible to seek traditional criminal justice for all those responsible, so we turned to the civil court.

After many painful years of negotiations, the Libyan government finally agreed to pay $10 million to each victim's family. The first 80 percent of this sum was paid as planned, but the Libyan government withheld the remaining 20 percent as it negotiated restored diplomatic relations with the United States. The closer the restoration of these ties came, the harder we fought to ensure that the Libyan government was held accountable for its debt.

In July, the United States and Libya agreed that relations could be normalized only after Libya paid its full debt for its state-sponsored terrorism. On Oct. 31, teh Libyan government executed full payment to the victims and their families.

While we may never know the names of all those involved in this crime or see them face the punisment they so justly deserve, we can gain some peace from forcing th Libyan government to be accountable for its crimes.

We thank Sen. Frank Lautenberg and others who stood by us the last two decades.

Kara Weipz
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103
Cherry Hill, N.J.

August 29, 2008
London - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son on Friday said Tripoli only accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing to get sanctions lifted and slammed the victims' "greedy" families.

Seif al-Islam admitted the move was hypocritical, adding he believed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the bombing, was not responsible for the bombing.

A total of 270 people were killed when Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York blew up over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in 1988.

Asked if Libya accepts responsibility for the bombing, Seif al-Islam said in a BBC interview: "Yes, we wrote a letter to the Security Council (in 2003) saying we're responsible for the acts of our employees, our people but it doesn't mean that we did it in fact."

He added: "What can you do? Without writing that letter, you will not be able to get rid of the sanction... I admit we played with the words. We had to, we had to, there was no other solution."

Libya was brought back in from the cold after a decade of Security Council sanctions following the letter.

Relations with the US, which were cut off in 1981, were restored in 2004, a few weeks after Gaddafi announced that Tripoli was abandoning efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Libya next week, the first such trip by a top US diplomat since 1953.

Seif al-Islam also pulled no punches in criticising the families of victims, to whom Libya agreed to pay compensation in a move which he himself brokered.

"I think they (the families) were very greedy and they were trading with the blood of their sons and daughters," he said.

"The position with them, it was very terrible and it was very materialistic and it was very greedy and they were asking for money and more money and more money and more money.

"And they were talking just about money. Money money money money."

He added that the families should stop "blackmailing" Libya and work with Tripoli "to find the real criminal who's behind that attack".

Asked if Megrahi was that person, he said: "I don't think that poor guy is behind that sophisticated operation... I'm sure that that poor guy is not sophisticated and clever and capable enough to carry out that job".

Megrahi was found guilty by a trio of judges at a special court under Scottish law in the Netherlands in 2001 and sentenced to 27 years in jail. He is appealing the verdict.

Seif al-Islam added that he hoped and believed Libya was not behind the Lockerbie attack.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, told the BBC that many relatives of victims would find the comments "deeply offensive" but added he thought this was "the Arab way of doing things".

"The Libyans have achieved what they want - and Western commerce has got what it wants too. In this, many of us feel like pawns," he said.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

President at Intrepid Ceremony

President Bush Attends Rededication Ceremony of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
New York, New York

12:27 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you for the warm welcome. Be seated. Charles and Rich, thanks a lot. I gratefully accept the Freedom Award. And I'm honored to be with you today as we rededicate a great monument to freedom: the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. At this ceremony, we recognize nearly 55,000 Americans who served aboard the USS Intrepid, including some who are here today. And we commemorate Veterans Day by honoring all those who have worn the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps. Thank you for serving our great nation. (Applause.)

I am proud to be traveling with the First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush -- (applause) -- the most patient woman in America. (Laughter.) Governor, thank you for joining us; Secretary Kempthorne. Senator Hillary Clinton, I'm proud to be with you. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) Congressman Pete King, Congressman Charlie Rangel, Congress Anthony Weiner -- thank you all for joining us today. Looking forward to that lame-duck session, aren't we? (Laughter.)

What an awesome guy General Jim Conway is, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and member of the Joint Chiefs. (Applause.) Christine Quinn, thank you for your remarks. Bill White, the Vanna White of the Intrepid. (Laughter.) Arnold Fisher and the Fisher family -- what a fabulous contribution the Fishers have made to the United States of America, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. (Applause.)

John Rich, fellow Texan. John, tell them we're coming home, and we're coming home with our heads held high. (Applause.)

Members of the Intrepid Museum and Foundation Board of Trustees, Wounded Warriors -- you know, oftentimes they ask me, what are you going to miss about the presidency? And first reaction is, I say, no traffic jams in New York. The truth of the matter is, I will miss being the Commander-in-Chief of such a fabulous group of men and women -- those who wear the uniform of the United States military. (Applause.)

Veterans Day has a long and solemn history. The event that inspired it took place 90 years ago today, in a small railway car in a French forest. November the 11th, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice that ended one of the bloodiest wars the world had ever witnessed. By the time that day arrived, World War I had raged for more than four years, and more than 8 million soldiers had given their lives. But on the 11th hour of the 11th day of that 11th month, the guns fell silent -- and peace began to return to Europe.

To commemorate the war's end, President Woodrow Wilson declared that November the 11th should be remembered as Armistice Day -- a holiday to honor the brave sacrifices of the American soldiers who defended democracy and freedom overseas. Today, we know it as Veterans Day -- a day when we celebrate and thank and honor every man and woman who have served in our Armed Forces.

These noble Americans are our sons and daughters. They are our fathers and mothers. They are our family and they are our friends. They leave home to do the work of patriots -- and they lead lives of quiet dignity when they return. Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most. (Applause.)

In the years since we began celebrating Veterans Day, America's Armed Forces have defended our freedom in many conflicts. And in those conflicts, they have often relied on the might of the USS Intrepid.

The great ship's keel was laid on December 1, 1941. Less than a week later, Pearl Harbor was attacked -- and America entered World War II. In the years to come, as the United States Navy defended the freedom in the Pacific, the men of "the Fighting I" would be in the thick of the battle. The Intrepid participated in the invasion of the Marshall Islands. She played a key role in the amphibious assault on Okinawa. She was part of one of the greatest sea battles in history: the Battles of Leyte Gulf.

In that massive engagement, American forces faced some of the most formidable elements of the Japanese Navy. The Japanese fleet included the Yamamato* and the Musashi -- these were the heaviest and the largest battleships ever constructed. The Imperial Navy approached the coast of the Philippines from three different directions, and it was a fearsome challenge -- but the men of this ship were ready. The Intrepid's Air Group fought courageously and without rest. By the time the battle ended three days later, the United States Navy had sunk the Musashi to the ocean floor, and lifted hopes for victory in the Pacific.

The war ended the following year, but the Intrepid's mission did not end. As the United States raced into the new frontier of space, the Intrepid stood by to retrieve astronauts returning to Earth. During the Cold War, she patrolled the Mediterranean and helped force the surrender of pro-Castro terrorists who had hijacked a freighter in the Caribbean, and did three tours off the waters of Vietnam. For our nation's bicentennial celebration, the United States Congress paid a fitting tribute to this ship's extraordinary service when they selected the Intrepid to represent the United States Navy in Philadelphia.

After more than 30 years at sea, the Intrepid was permanently decommissioned. Despite her amazing history, she was destined to be scrapped. But thanks to the work of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, she found a home in New York City. Since 1982, she has been a museum that educates new generations of Americans about the high price that those who came before them paid for their freedom.

One of the veterans who has been honored here was a Navy pilot who flew Avenger torpedo planes during World War II. When he was invited onboard the Intrepid for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he was moved to see that the museum had arranged for a vintage Avenger painted in the style of his unit to be right here on the deck. It just so happens that it was flanked by two of the men who had flown in his squadron. The man the Intrepid honored that day is a great American. He's a dedicated servant to this country, and I can tell you from personal experience he's a fabulous father. (Applause.)

Even as a museum, the Intrepid still answered the call to service. I'm pretty certain most Americans don't understand what I'm about to tell you, but on September the 11th, when we came attacked just a few blocks from here, the Intrepid was used as an emergency command center. First responders launched helicopters from the decks. It became clear that this ship -- which helped defeat the great totalitarian threats of the 20th century -- was front and center in the opening moments of a new struggle against the forces of hatred and fear.

The war on terror has required courage; it has required resolve equal to what previous generations of Americans brought to the fields of Europe and the deep waters of the Pacific. And I'm proud to report to my fellow citizens, our Armed Forces, the Armed Forces of this generation, have showed up for the fight, and America is more secure for it. (Applause.)

This morning, Laura and I flew up here with some brave men and women who are keeping us safe. I want to introduce them to you.

Staff Sergeant Michael Noyce-Merino was the first National Guardsman ever to be named the Army's Noncommissioned Officer of the Year. Senior Airman Alicia Goetschel was named one of the Air Force's Outstanding Airmen of the Year for her work in keeping dangerous extremists off the streets of Iraq. Chief Petty Officer Shenequa Cox won several awards recognizing her as one of the Navy's finest sailors. Petty Officer First Class Chris Hutto was honored as the Coast Guard's Enlisted Person of the Year. And United States Marine Sergeant John Badon's bravery earned him two Purple Hearts for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Where are my new pals? God bless you. (Applause.)

They are representative of the finest our nation offers. And they have the support of strong and caring and loving families. And so on this Veterans Day, not only do we honor those who have worn the uniform, those who are wearing the uniform -- we honor their families. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

We have a moral obligation to support our families, and we have a moral obligation to support our veterans. It has been my privilege to work with members of the United States Congress to nearly double the funding for those who have worn the uniform. It has been my privilege to work to implement the recommendations from the Dole-Shalala Commission, to make sure that we have a mental health care system and physical health care system worthy of the sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform.

It has been my privilege to work with the United States Congress to expand education benefits for both members of our military as well as our veterans. It has been my privilege to say loud and clear to our veterans, we love you, we respect you, and we thank you for serving the United States of America. (Applause.)

And I love what the Intrepid Relief Fund and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund have done to support our veterans, as well. It provided more than $100 million to military families in need. The Intrepid's Fisher House program has provided temporary housing for families of servicemen and women receiving medical treatment.

At the Center for the Intrepid's physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, Texas, America's wounded warriors receive some incredible medical care. I have seen what happens in this place of healing and hope firsthand. The Intrepid Center brings great compassion to those who have worn and are wearing the uniform. It also shows that the American people are incredibly generous in supporting the veterans. And I want to thank the Intrepid members, and those who support the Intrepid foundations, for your work on behalf of our country.

Throughout the decades, our servicemen and women have shown a spirit of selfless courage. I was impressed by the story of Alonzo Swann, who on October 29, 1944, here on the deck of the Intrepid, had to help his fellow sailors deal with a kamikaze attack. He saw his best friend burning alive and caught in a gun mount. He rushed into the flames. He attempted to save his buddy, but before he could do so, an ammunition then detonated; nine were killed, six injured, including Alonzo.

For his bravery, he was awarded the Bronze Star. It's a high honor, but a lot of folks didn't think it was a high enough honor. They felt he deserved the Navy Cross, and many believed that he had been denied the Navy Cross because of the color of his skin; he was an African American. For 50 years, his advocates petitioned the government -- and for 50 years they were unsuccessful. But he kept the faith. November 3, 1993, under the presidency of my predecessor, President Bill Clinton, right here on the deck of the Intrepid, Alonzo Swann finally received his Navy Cross. And I want people to listen to what he said. He said, "If you think you're right, fight your heart out." That ought to be the motto of the modern United States military. You think you're right, and you're fighting your heart out for the sake of peace and freedom, and we thank you for it. (Applause.)

Laura and I are honored to be here. We're honored to see this majestic place. I love the fact that parents can answer a child's question about "Why fight?" with this answer: These brave souls fought for freedom, they fought for liberty, and they fought to guarantee the rights given to us by our Creator, and that has been the history of our Armed Forces -- brave folks, the mightiest defenders of those unalienable rights.

So on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank our veterans for your service, for your commitment. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause)

Additional Links:,0,4602005.story