Britain has warned Libya not to hold celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the return home of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, amid suggestions from Tripoli that he could live for up to seven more years.
Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 atrocity in which 270 people died, was released from his Scottish prison on 20 August last year after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was said by doctors to have only three months to live when he was freed amid controversy that has reignited dramatically in the US and UK in recent months.
Megrahi has been described as being very ill, but a medical source in Libya was reported today to have said he may have up to seven years to live.
Seeking to head off further controversy, Britain's ambassador to Tripoli, Richard Northern, is understood to have made clear to senior Libyan government officials that any public events honouring Megrahi could damage flourishing relations between the two countries.
Northern was responding to rumours of plans to mark the anniversary with a banquet attended by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi's son and presumed heir, who escorted Megrahi back to Tripoli from Scotland and a rapturous welcome by friends, family and fellow tribesmen waving Scottish flags.
"The celebrations that greeted Megrahi's return to Libya a year ago were insensitive and deeply distressing to the [Lockerbie bombing] victims' families," the Foreign Office said. "Any repetition of these celebrations this year would be completely unacceptable. Megrahi remains a convicted terrorist responsible for the worst act of terrorism in British history."
Megrahi has not been seen in public since last September. But he has been reported to be undergoing new treatment, likely to be chemotherapy, which may further prolong his life expectancy.