DAILY MAIL FRONT PAGE LEAD STORY SATURDAY 17 JULY 2010
EXTRACT: 2004: Prime Minister Tony Blair makes the first government visit to Libya since 1943. He offers the Colonel the ‘hand of friendship’. Big trade deals followed involving BP, Shell and BG Group.
Tony Blair was flown to Libya for secret talks with Colonel Gaddafi just days after denying he was an adviser to the dictator.
Mr Blair was ‘entertained as a brother’, a senior Libyan government source has revealed.
He told the Daily Mail that the former prime minister had offered Gaddafi, with whom he is on first-name terms, ‘a great deal of invaluable advice’.
They discussed a wide range of international and domestic issues, including lucrative investment opportunities.
The meeting, in Tripoli last month, came shortly after Mr Blair’s spokesman flatly denied that he had any ‘formal or informal’, ‘paid or unpaid’ advisory role to Gaddafi.
The revelation will heap pressure on Mr Blair – now a Middle East peace envoy – over his links to the Libyan regime and potential conflicts of interest between his public and private roles.
It will also anger those who lost family members in the Lockerbie bombing, for which Libya has admitted responsibility.
And the timing couldn’t be worse for BP, which is being accused in the U.S. of helping to engineer the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi in exchange for oil concessions from the Libyan government.
Mr Blair has been closely associated with BP and as prime minister in 2007, he famously shook Gaddafi’s hand after smoothing the way to a £450million exploration deal between the corporation and Libya’s National Oil Corporation.
Last night relatives of the Lockerbie victims condemned the meeting. ‘For Blair to meet Gaddafi like this is incredibly hurtful and immoral,’ said Kathleen Flynn, from New Jersey in the U.S.
Her 21-year-old son John Patrick was one of 270 killed in the bombing.
‘I do not believe he can even have a moral compass anymore,’ she added.
‘Because of people like Blair we do not feel that justice has been either served or done in our case. He is a turncoat.’
Since leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair has been advising firms including JP Morgan – with which he has a £2million-a-year contract – about investment opportunities in Libya.
Intrigue: Mr Blair is said to be on first-name terms with the Libyan dictator and was treated like a ‘brother’ on his visit
According to Libyan government sources, such matters were high on the agenda when Mr Blair arrived in Tripoli on June 10.
He flew in from a two-day visit to the impoverished state of Rwanda – one which had been highly publicised, not least of all on the official ‘Office of Tony Blair’ website.
Yet, intriguingly, the site contains no details whatsoever of the visit to see Gaddafi.
‘It was carried out in conditions of utmost secrecy,’ said well-placed Libyan government source, claiming that it was ‘private and nothing to do with any of Mr Blair’s part-time official roles.’
The source continued: ‘Blair was met at the airport and transported from his private Gulfstream jet to the Brother Leader’s palace in an armoured limousine.’
The source added: ‘Blair was treated as a brother by Brother Leader Gaddafi – the two got on incredibly well, as they always do.
‘Blair was delighted to offer both his expertise and friendship to the Brother Leader.’
Less than a week before the meeting, Mr Blair’s official spokesman had vehemently denied claims by Saif Gaddafi, son and possible successor to the Colonel, that Mr Blair had advisory links with the Libyan government and the Libyan Investment Authority, the sovereign fund managing the country’s £65billion oil wealth.
Yet, following an investigation carried out across North Africa and Europe, the Daily Mail can also reveal that the LIA has just opened its new London HQ one street away from Tony Blair Associates, the highly secretive international consultancy.
It has also emerged that the LIA is poised to invest millions of pounds in BP.
BP is already under fire in the U.S. over the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week called for an investigation into claims that it lobbied the Government to release Al-Megrahi in order to smooth an oil deal with Libya.
BP has confirmed that it did indeed lobby Mr Blair’s government in late 2007 over a prisoner transfer agreement between Libya and Britain.
The UK’s ambassador in Washington Sir Nigel Sheinwald insisted claims that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal were ‘not true’.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘It was not a private meeting.
‘Tony Blair did not stay with Colonel Gaddafi. He has no role whatsoever, paid or otherwise, with the Libyan government or the Libyan Investment Authority.
‘He hasn’t the faintest idea where the LIA head office is.’
Additional reporting: Peter Allen and Christian Gysin