06 March 1998
(Says world still demands trial of accused Pan Am bombers (630) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- After a lengthy private meeting, the UN Security Council decided March 6 not to change the sanctions it imposed on Libya after it refused to surrender two men accused of the bombing of Pan American Boeing 747 flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December, 1988. But the Council also agreed to conduct an open debate on the issue later in March. US Ambassador Bill Richardson said the Council decision "reaffirmed our search for justice." The international community, he said, "remains steadfast in its determination that sanctions imposed against Libya for its failure to turn over the two men accused (of bombing Pan Am flight 103) will remain in place until there is compliance with the will of the international community." In April, 1992, the Council imposed mandatory sanctions cutting air links to Libya because of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi's failure to cooperate with the United States and Britain in the extradition of the Libyans, suspected of involvement in both Pan Am bombing and in the bombing of a French UTA flight. In November 1993, the Council also froze Tripoli's assets and embargoed export of oil industry equipment to Libya. The sanctions are to remain in place until Libya turns the two suspects over for trial in either the United States or the United Kingdom, agrees to pay compensation, and demonstrates "by concrete actions" that it has definitively ended all terrorist acts and assistance to terrorist groups, according to Council resolutions. Libya has, however, successfully lobbied many non-aligned and Arab states to support its position that sanctions should be lifted not only because of its offer to have the men tried elsewhere but because the sanctions are causing harm to Libya civilians. In late February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear Libya's argument that the 1971 Montreal Civil Aviation Treaty allows the suspects to be tried in Libya. Richardson pointed out that the World Court ruling "has no impact on the Security Council which governs ... the issue of Lockerbie." He noted also that "the court ruling does state very clearly that the Scottish and American and British legal systems are perfectly adequate to handle this case." The court "did not rule in Libya's favor nor did it say that the case had any merit. It simply said that it would now look at the complaint," the ambassador said. The Council has agreed to hold a public debate open to all UN member states on March 20. The meeting will not affect the sanctions decision, which comes up every four months. Richardson said of the open meeting that "we suspect it will have a little bit of a propaganda effect. So be it." British Ambassador Sir John Weston told reporters that "Libya has not been properly exploiting the possibilities for humanitarian exemptions under the sanctions committee." He said Libya's foreign current foreign exchange reserves are $9,950 million, $9,600 million of which is accounted for by oil exports. "Oil exports of Libya in 1997 were approximately 1.42 million barrels a day and we're told that is an increase on 1996," Sir John said. "Here is the country which is the richest in Africa ... which says it is facing penury and suffering on account of the very specifically targeted UN sanctions which bear primarily on air transport." Libya's complaints are "not a very credible case and one wonders why more of the money earned from oil exports is not being used in order to ameliorate the suffering of 70 million people," the British Ambassador said.