Libya Makes Bid to Lift SanctionsBy Thomas W. Lippman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 1994; Page A28
Libya marked the sixth anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 yesterday by issuing a public plea for international acceptance of what it called a "fair and just solution" to the impasse over Libya's refusal to make two bombing suspects available for prosecution.
Rather than delivering the two men accused of planting the bomb for prosecution in the United States or Britain, as required by U.N. Security Council Resolutions, Libya proposed that a Scottish court conduct a trial at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
The Libyan appeal, in a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post, was the latest step in a long-running effort by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to win removal of international economic sanctions without meeting U.N. demands.
It drew a curt rejection from the State Department, and infuriated some members of the Pan Am victims' families, who denounced it as ill-timed and insulting.
"I felt like a Holocaust victim opening the paper and seeing an ad for Hitler," said Susan Cohen, whose only child, Theodora, was among the 270 people killed when the Pan Am 747 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The Pan Am bombing was one of the deadliest acts of terrorism ever recorded. After a painstaking investigation -- made possible by the fact that the plane blew up over land -- a federal grand jury in 1991 indicted two Libyans, Abdul Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fimah.
The following spring, the United Nations demanded that Libya deliver the two for trial and imposed sanctions when Libya refused to comply. The sanctions later were tightened but never succeeded in compelling Libya to turn over the suspects.
For much of the past three years, Gadhafi has maneuvered, attempted to negotiate, hired American and British lawyers, given conciliatory interviews and offered compensation payments in an effort to have the sanctions lifted. He has not succeeded, but the refusal of some European countries to approve a total ban on Libyan oil exports has allowed Libya to keep itself afloat economically, leaving Washington and London frustrated by their inability to pry the suspects loose for trial.
In an interview with the Arab-language service of the British Broadcasting Corp., Gadhafi said yesterday that because of negative propaganda in the United States and Britain, "we will be forced to try them ourselves in Libya to arrive at the truth," the Associated Press reported from London.
Believing that Libya will never comply except under duress and suspicious of the sincerity of the U.S. effort to bring the suspects to trial, some victims' family members have recently opened a new front. They are seeking a reduction in U.S. aid to Cairo because Egypt is perceived as supportive of Gadhafi. But senior U.S. officials have told the families that the Clinton administration does not support that effort.
In the advertisement yesterday, Libya reprinted a resolution approved by the League of Arab States in March endorsing the proposal for a Scottish tribunal in the Hague. The ad said the resolution "has been supported by several international organizations," such as members of the Nonaligned Movement and the Organization of African Unity.
But the United States did not accept it and will not, State Department spokesman Michael McCurry said.
"We will not be satisfied with half measures. We reject Libyan offers to negotiate the extent of its compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said.
In a letter to Susan Cohen and her husband, Daniel, last week, Libyan U.N. ambassador Mohamed Azwai the United States and Britain "are neither interested in uncovering the truth nor in the suffering of the families of the victims. Their main concern, we believe, is to ostracize Libya, making it appear as a pariah and an outlaw state in the world community for purely political reasons."
© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company