Lockerbie Fallout Puts Scotland on the Spot

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The government of Scotland found itself scrambling Friday to control political fallout from a decision to flex its independence by releasing a Libyan man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Television footage of a crowd of welcoming Libyans waving Scottish flags has fanned anger about the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer. He was allowed to travel to Libya on Thursday despite demands from victims' family members and a host of U.S. officials that he spend his last days in prison. Both U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denounced the celebrations, with the latter calling them "outrageous and disgusting."

In an interview with BBC radio, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he didn't think the decision to release Mr. al-Megrahi would tarnish Scotland's reputation or hurt its long-term relations with the U.S. "Our relationship with America is a strong and enduring one," he said. "It doesn't depend on always reaching agreement."

The Scottish Parliament has been called back from its summer recess to debate the matter, and on Monday Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill will appear before it in Edinburgh to explain why he made the decision to free Mr. al-Megrahi. Among the questions he is likely to face: why Mr. al-Megrahi was released when other seriously ill U.K. inmates -- such as Myra Hindley, a convicted child murderer with heart problems who requested early release several years ago -- died in prison.

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