August 29,

LIBYAN leader Muammar Gaddafi's son says his country accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing only to get sanctions lifted and called victims' families greedy.

Seif al-Islam admitted the move was hypocritical, saying he believed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the bombing, was not responsible.

Some 270 people were killed when Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York blew up over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in 1988.

Asked if Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, Seif al-Islam said in a BBC interview: "Yes, we wrote a letter to the Security Council (in 2003) saying we're responsible for the acts of our employees, our people but it doesn't mean that we did it in fact."

He said: "What can you do? Without writing that letter, you will not be able to get rid of the sanction ... I admit we played with the words. We had to, we had to, there was no other solution."

Libya was brought back in from the cold after a decade of Security Council sanctions following the letter.

Relations with the US, which were cut off in 1981, were restored in 2004, a few weeks after Gaddafi announced that Tripoli was abandoning efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Libya next week, the first such trip by a top US diplomat since 1953.

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photo: Disaster ... Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son says his country accepted blame for the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing to get sanctions lifted / Reuters