Blair considering summit with Gaddafi

Tony Blair has paved the way for a possible historic summit meeting in Libya with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi - drawing to an end more than two decades of international isolation for the north African leader.

Following talks in Downing Street with the Libyan foreign minister Abdul Rahman Mohammed Shalgam, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he hoped arrangements for a visit by the Prime Minister could be put in place "as soon as convenient".

The move follows hard on the heels of the dramatic announcement by Col Gaddafi on December 19 that he was prepared to give up his country's attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Downing Street emphasised that any summit would depend on continued progress in dealing with a range of issues.

However, criticism was mounting over Mr Blair's possible visit, with families bereaved in the Lockerbie bombing claiming it showed ministers cared more about securing oil than justice.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We need to take this step by step. We have made considerable progress since December 19. We obviously want this progress continued.

"It is within that progress that the possibility of further visits can be considered."

As well as the views expressed by the families of the Lockerbie victims, rank-and-file police officers joined in the criticism, angry that no one had been held responsible for the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who was was shot dead in 1984 outside the Libyan embassy by a marksman who opened fire on protesting Libyan dissidents.

At a joint news conference with Mr Shalgam, held in the gilded splendour of the Locarno Room in the Foreign Office, Mr Straw acknowledged that there were still outstanding issues between the two countries.

However, he said they now wanted to establish a "fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship" and that both the Middle East and the wider world would gain from Libya's "re-integration" into the international mainstream.

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