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Mon 5 Sep 2011 09:26 PM

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UK set to move top diplomat back to Tripoli

Prime Minister David Cameron says country will re-establish full diplomatic presence in capital

UK set to move top diplomat back to Tripoli
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference following a summit on the post-Kadhafi held at the Elysee Palace in Paris on September 1, 2011. (AFP/Getty Images)

A senior British diplomat was moving to Tripoli on Monday to re-establish the country's full diplomatic presence in the Libyan capital, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Britain closed its embassy in Tripoli in February and evacuated embassy staff as a revolt against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi gathered force. It soon sent diplomats to the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

"Today the UK's Special Representative is deploying to Tripoli to re-establish our full diplomatic presence," Cameron told parliament.

Officials said the British diplomat was Dominic Asquith, standing in for Special Representative John Jenkins, who is on leave.

France and Italy said last week they were reopening their embassies in Tripoli, although the former rebel National Transitional Council is yet to move from Benghazi.

Britain has said it will not be left behind once Libya is in a position to start to award contracts for rebuilding.

Cameron said Britain and its NATO allies would continue to implement UN Security Council resolutions for as long as they were needed to protect civilians.

"For as long as Gaddafi remains at large, the safety and security of the Libyan people remains under threat. So let me be clear. We will not let up until the job is done," he said.

"Those thinking NATO will somehow pull out or pull back must think again. We are ready to extend the NATO mandate for as long as is necessary," he said.

Cameron pledged Britain would support the Libyan people in bringing Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, to justice.

"There must be no bolt-hole; no pampered hiding place from justice. He must face the consequences of his actions, under international and Libyan law," he said.

Britain's new relationship with Libya must deal with a series of problems from the past, Cameron said.

He said the case of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, controversially released from life imprisonment in Scotland two years ago on compassionate grounds, was a matter for the Scottish executive.

"But I have made my position clear. I believe he should never have been sent back to Libya in the first place," he said.

Scotland has said it has no plans to request the extradition of Megrahi, who was found guilty of bombing Pan Am flight 103 while en route from London to New York on December 21, 1988. A total of 270 people were killed.

Cameron said he wanted to see justice for the family of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, killed by a shot fired from the Libyan embassy during a demonstration against Gaddafi in 1984.

Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of Libya's National Transitional Council, had assured him the new Libyan government would cooperate fully with the British police investigation into the shooting, Cameron said.

An NTC minister said recently that Libya would not extradite Megrahi and British media reports say the NTC has also ruled out handing over any suspect in the Fletcher case.