The United States on Monday welcomed news of the arrest in Mauritania of late Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's former spy chief but sidestepped a feud on to where he should be extradited.
Abdullah Senussi, long one of Libya's most feared men, was detained Friday as he flew in from Morocco on a false passport, officials said. France, the International Criminal Court and post-Kadhafi Libya all want to put him on trial.
Senussi's capture "is a crucial step towards justice and accountability and another welcome step away from the dark 40-year history of Libya," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"He's been accused of crimes against humanity and acts of terrorism and the international community has been very clear that he needs to be held to account," she said.
A French court sentenced Senussi to life in prison in absentia over the downing of a French airliner in 1989 over Niger. The UTA flight was carrying 170 people from Brazzaville to Paris via N'Djamena.
Nuland said that the United States has "always been interested in what he has to say" about the Lockerbie bombing, but declined to say if Washington was formally seeking access to him.
"We want to see him brought to justice," she said. "We have a Libyan delegation in Mauritania, so we'll see where those contacts go."
The only person convicted over the Lockerbie bombing, Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, was released by Scotland on compassionate grounds in 2009 after doctors said he had three months to live.
The decision outraged the United States and families of the Lockerbie victims. Megrahi is still alive and in Libya.
Source: AFP American Edition