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Blair and a mere ‘lapse of judgment’

Saif was a key player in Libya’s campaign to renounce nuclear status and became close to leading figures after Mr Blair signed the ‘deal in the desert’ in March 2004, which saw British firms such as BP and Shell sign massive contracts with the Libyans.

Links: Blair and Gadaffi pictured in 2007 – will he be squirming regarding Saif’s capture?


Last updated at 1:28 PM on 21st November 2011

Tony Blair’s close relationship with the Gaddafi family was yesterday dismissed by an ally as a mere ‘lapse of judgment’.

Lord Goldsmith, who served as Mr Blair’s Attorney General for six years, said that cosying up to Colonel Gaddafi was trivial  when compared with the crimes of the former Libyan dictator’s bloody regime.

His comments followed claims that the capture of the tyrant’s playboy son Saif could cause acute potential embarrassment for Britain’s political elite.

So far, none of Saif’s former acquaintances has commented on what should now happen to the brutal dictator’s son.


But yesterday Lord Goldsmith, a key ally and staunch defender of the former Prime Minister, said that Mr Blair’s notorious ‘deal in the desert’ had not tarnished Britain’s reputation. He also said it was disappointing that coverage of Saif’s capture would focus on what ‘Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson were doing’.


Interviewed by Sky News, he said: ‘Now we have the possibility of proper trials, of justice being done and what do we talk about? We worry whether Tony Blair had a lapse of judgment. Come on!’


On the defensive: Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith


But the political commentator John Sergeant suggested Mr Blair’s notorious deal with Gaddafi was now an embarrassment for Britain, adding: ‘It looked like a great British success at the time – it now looks like a millstone.’


Lord Goldsmith’s dismissal of Mr Blair’s involvement outraged relatives of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Susan Cohen, whose student daughter Theodora, 19, was among the 270 dead, denounced Lord Goldsmith’s comments as a ‘disgrace.’


She said: ‘How anyone can be so flippant about a world leader befriending a brutal dictator is frankly disgusting. Tony Blair knew exactly what he was doing. He made repeated visits to befriend a monster who murdered hundreds of innocent people.


‘It was totally inexcusable and an appalling blunder. It should never be dismissed as a simple “lapse of judgment”.  Nothing could ever justify Blair’s befriending of Gaddafi. It was disgusting.’


Lord Goldsmith was appointed Attorney General in 2001 and stood down on the same day Mr Blair announced his resignation as Prime Minister.

In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he advised Mr Blair that a single UN resolution was not sufficient to authorise force. He was overruled and the PM fought for years to keep his advice a secret.


Saif was a key player in Libya’s campaign to renounce nuclear status and became close to leading figures after Mr Blair signed the ‘deal in the desert’ in March 2004, which saw British firms such as BP and Shell sign massive contracts with the Libyans.


Mr Blair’s visit also led to negotiations over a prisoner transfer agreement which ultimately paved the way for the release of Megrahi.

Saif studied at LSE from 2003 to 2008, gaining both a Master of Science degree and a doctorate. The university has been heavily criticised for accepting a £1.5million donation from the Gaddafis after Saif was awarded a PhD – now being investigated for plagiarism – in 2008.


It received a total of £300,000, which it later agreed to pay back to the Libyan people in the form of scholarships. It also signed a £2.2million contract to train hundreds of Libyan civil servants and even allowed Colonel Gaddafi himself to lecture via video link.


An inquiry by Lord Woolf, the retired Lord Chief Justice, is believed to have found multiple failings in the LSE’s decision to accept the donation.


Mr Blair’s spokesman last night said: ‘For the record, Tony Blair has only met Saif Gaddafi twice; on both occasions, there were officials and staff present.’


Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Labour had ‘nothing to fear’ about what might come out about the party’s links to the Gaddafi regime. He said: ‘I know at the time the motive was the right motive: could you see disarmament and progress on peace? That was the right thing to do then.’


British Prime Minister Tony Blair embraced him, despite being a violent dictator who was accused of the biggest terrorist act in British history, accused of killing a police woman, and supporting the IRA.


Royal Dutch Shell, Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi

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