Gaddafi's 40th turns into a diplomatic minefield

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Britain has refused to reveal who it will send to the biggest party in Libya's history, a celebration of the rise to power of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in a coup d'etat 40 years ago.

With London desperate to avoid further embarrassment in the wake of allegations that it supported the release of the Lockerbie bomber in return for trade deals, no decision had been made about who would represent the UK at the lavish and potentially controversial carnival in Tripoli.

Officials refused to "speculate" who London would send after evidence emerged that the Justice Secretary Jack Straw had sent a letter to his Scottish counterpart two years ago saying it was in the UK's "overwhelming interest" to include the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in a mooted prisoner release programme.

A week of events on a grand scale kicks off tonight in Tripoli with a massive equestrian display at the same military airport where Megrahi was given a hero's welcome after his release on compassionate grounds by the Scottish authorities.

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