Arabs call to end Libya sanctions
The Organization of African Unity (OAU) called Friday for the sanctions to be lifted. A similar call was made by the Arab League on Thursday. China, Egypt, Italy, Spain and former South African president Nelson Mandela also voiced support for an end to the sanctions, as France opted for a wait-and-see approach. The United States and Britain said earlier that the Libyan government must recognize that it was behind the bombing and compensate the victims' families before the sanctions can be lifted.
"The Security Council must take immediate steps to permanently lift the sanctions imposed on Libya," said Esmat Abdel Meguid, secretary general of the 22-member Arab League, which includes Libya. Abdel Meguid said he will study steps to lift the sanctions when he meets next week in New York with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and with the chair of the Security Council, currently Arab League member Tunisia.
Egyptian and Spanish foreign ministers meeting in Madrid also called Wednesday for the sanctions to be lifted. "The (UN) Security Council has to deal with the question of sanctions which are suspended now for the time being, and the logical end is for the sanctions to be lifted," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa, visiting in Spain. His counterpart Josep Pique said that Spain as a rule was against economic sanctions, adding: "I hope that we will be able to lift them as soon as possible", referring to the punitive measures hitting Libya. But the Spanish foreign minister noted that a more detailed review of the verdict would be necessary to ensure that it meets conditions set in UN resolutions for lifting the sanctions.
Syria has added its voice to calls for an immediate lifting of United Nations sanctions on Libya following the conclusion of the Lockerbie bombing trial, Libyan television reported Friday. "Syria expresses its solidarity with Libya for the immediate lifting of the sanctions and denounces blackmail exercised by the United States," the report quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shara as telling his Libyan counterpart, Abdel Rahman Shalgham in a telephone conversation.
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya in 1992 and 1993, including an air and arms embargo, and a freeze on its assets abroad as a means of pressuring Tripoli to turn over the suspects for trial. Those sanctions were suspended, but not lifted, on August 27, 1998, after the two suspects arrived at the US military base of Camp Zeist — declared Scottish territory for the purpose — to stand trial.
The Scottish court earlier convicted one Libyan of murder and found the second innocent in the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 aboard and 11 on the ground.
Several airlines have since resumed service to Libya, including Alitalia, Lufthansa, Swissair and, more recently, British Airways. Sanctions are to be completely lifted only when Libya has complied with UN demands to take responsibility and to pay appropriate compensation to the victims' families. The United States and Britain insist those conditions have not been met, and US courts have put compensation at $700 million.
"I want to assure the families and victims, the United States government will continue to pressure Libya to accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families," President George W. Bush said Wednesday.
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said Thursday that until Libya accepts responsibility "there can be no question of any further rehabilitation through, for instance, the lifting of sanctions. "Libya has in the past said that it would pay compensation if there was a guilty verdict," Cook added. "There has been a guilty verdict, and a guilty verdict against a very senior official of Libyan intelligence."
Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Hassuna Al-Shawsh told reporters after the verdict that "Libya, as a state, has no responsibility in this affair, which is a judicial affair." But Libya's ambassador to Britain, Mohamed Azwai, said his government did not rule out paying compensation if bomb suspect Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi is also found guilty on appeal.
"We said it before that if our people are guilty we pay any compensation at that time, but until this moment we believe as a legal matter that it is still not final," Azwai told the BBC. Mandela accused Washington and London of "moving the goalposts" and said he would raise the issue with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"We expect the West to lead in moral responsibility and not shift the goalposts. Once agreements are not honored, you are introducing chaos in international affairs," Mandela told reporters.
China, a permanent member of the Security Council, also called for the lifting of sanctions on Libya following the verdict, saying the embargo had brought "great loss and bitterness to the Libyan people."
Beijing hopes "the international community could make further efforts to completely lift sanctions on Libya, so that regional peace and stability could be achieved," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao, quoted by the official news agency Xinhua.
France was non-committal on the sanctions, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying after the verdict: "We welcome the verdict and our thoughts go out to the families of the victims." A French diplomat told AFP on Thursday that "we are going to let the storm pass."
Italy, which has led the push for European reconciliation with Tripoli, said the reaction to the verdict showed a "new political reflection" on Libya's international role. "The normalization of ties with Libya should be of interest to all countries," said Italy's foreign ministry, according to the ANSA news agency. — (AFP, Madrid, Tripoli)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)