Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi met on Friday with Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi amid mounting Western outrage over the hero's welcome he received upon his return.
Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam said Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison on Thursday was linked to trade deals with Britain, allegations which were swiftly denied by London.
The Libyan leader praised Scottish authorities for their "courage" in releasing Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, on compassionate grounds.
"At this moment I would like to send a message to our friends in Scotland ... and I congratulate them on their courage and for having proved their independence despite the unacceptable and unreasonable pressures they faced," Kadhafi was quoted as saying by Libya's official Jana news agency.
Libyan television showed images of Kadhafi receiving and embracing Megrahi.
Megrahi, convicted for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people in the air and on the ground in the Scottish town of Lockerbie, was sentenced to life in prison in 2001.
Seif al Islam, who traveled to Scotland to accompany Megrahi back to Libya, said his release was linked to trade deals. "In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table," Islam said in interview to Libyan TV channel Al Mutawassit taped on the flight back to Tripoli. “All British interests were linked to the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi,’ he added.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office firmly denied that Megrahi's release was linked to Britain's interest in Libya's oil and gas reserves.