28 August 1998
(Libyan suspects would be tried in Netherlands) (580) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- The Security Council has officially endorsed the joint proposal of the United States and the United Kingdom that the two Libyan suspects in the Pan Am flight 103 bombing case be tried under Scottish law in the Netherlands, and warned that it would consider additional measures if "the two accused have not arrived or appear for trial promptly." The Libyans, Abdel Basset ali Mohmaed al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, are accused of being responsible for the 1988 bombing in which 270 persons died when the airliner exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Council unanimously adopted a resolution August 27 setting forth the responsibilities for the arrangement and stating that the mandatory economic sanctions in place against Libya since 1992 would be suspended as soon as Secretary General Kofi Annan reports that the accused have arrived in the Netherlands for trial or have appeared before an appropriate court in the United Kingdom or the United States. The resolution also stipulates that Libya must also satisfy French investigators regarding the bombing of a UTA flight over Niger in September 1989, which killed 170 persons, before sanctions can be suspended. The United States and the United Kingdom presented their proposal August 24, after having been urged to compromise by the Arab League, the Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of African Unity which have been involved in trying to find a compromise. Washington and London had originally insisted the two be tried in either the United States or Scotland. The Council has directed the Secretary General to work with the Netherlands to help Libya with the physical arrangements for the safe transfer of the two accused from Libya and asked the Secretary General to nominate international observers to attend the trial. Stressing that the Council has taken "an important step toward obtaining a measure of justice for the victims of the Pan Am bombing and their families," US Ambassador A. Peter Burleigh challenged Libya to give a "simple, straightforward acceptance" of the proposal. "The United States, the Security Council and the world community are watching. Most importantly, the family members of the 270 victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing are watching," Burleigh said. "Failure of Libya to act promptly to ensure the appearance of the defendants would be a monumental breach of faith which would compel the Security Council to act appropriately in response. We hope that will not be necessary," he said. Burleigh said that the United States expected "unhesitating and unequivocal support" from the nations and regional organizations who have pressed for the new trial arrangement. He pressed them "to urge Libya in the strongest terms to turn over the two defendants for trial without delay." "Just as we will be watching Libya's response to this resolution, we will be carefully gauging the response of those nations and organizations," he said. In April 1992, the Council imposed mandatory sanctions cutting air links to Libya because of Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi's failure to cooperate with the United States and Britain in the extradition of the two Libyans suspects in the Pan Am flight 103 case and with France in the investigation of the bombing of a UTA flight. In November 1993, the Council added to the original sanctions by freezing Tripoli's assets and embargoing equipment needed by Libya's oil industry.