WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged Libya not to give a hero's welcome to the convicted perpetrator of the Pan Am 103 bombing, who was released from a Scottish prison Thursday over U.S. objections. Hours later Abdel Baset al-Megrahi arrived in Tripoli to a festive greeting by thousands.
Obama said his administration conveyed its objections to the Scots, who announced that al-Megrahi was released because he is terminally ill and should be permitted to die in his home country. Al-Megrahi was convicted for the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing over Lockerbie that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.
"We have been in contact with the Scottish government indicating that we objected to this," Obama said in an interview from the White House with Philadelphia-based radio talk show host Michael Smerconish.
"And we thought it was a mistake," Obama added. "We're now in contact with the Libyan government," he said shortly before al-Megrahi landed in Tripoli. Obama said the Libyan should not be "welcomed in some way but instead should be under house arrest."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who had said shortly before al-Megrahi flew to Libya that he should not receive a hero's welcome, said after the festive welcoming in Tripoli: "Mr. Megrahi is a terrorist, not a hero. If Libya chooses to lionize him if will affect our future relationship."