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    U.S. to Urge Libya Oil Boycott in Suspects Standoff

    By John F. Harris and Thomas W. Lippman
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Tuesday, March 28, 1995; Page A05

    Frustrated by Libya's refusal to turn over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the Clinton administration said yesterday that it will ask the United Nations to impose a worldwide oil boycott against what the United States has called an outlaw nation.

    The decision to seek expanded sanctions against Libya came after family members of the victims who died in the explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, met at the White House with national security adviser Anthony Lake.

    The United Nations is scheduled to vote this week on whether to continue the sanctions regime already in place against Libya. Clinton promised in the 1992 presidential campaign that he would seek a boycott against Libyan oil, and the families of the bombing victims have been pressing continuously for yesterday's step.

    It remains unclear, however, whether yesterday's announcement will be more than a symbolic gesture. The United States in the past has informally raised the issue of an oil boycott against Libya with allies on the Security Council, who have responded that they would not go along with the idea. One family member who attended yesterday's meeting said officials were "very vague" about exactly what they plan to do.

    Administration officials said they have no assurances that other nations will be more receptive this time, but that they gave commitments to the family members that they would raise the issue.

    After a painstaking investigation that involved taking bits of bomb wreckage from the scene and tracing them through international terrorism networks, the United States and Great Britain indicted two Libyan intelligence agents in the Pan Am 103 incident. In December 1988, a 747 jumbo jet en route from London to New York was blown apart, killing all 270 passengers and crew members aboard.

    "We have raised this with other governments in the past, and there hasn't been much support in the past," said White House press secretary Michael McCurry, who expressed hope that Libya's continued recalcitrance will change the international politics of the proposal.

    Libya produces about 1.4 million barrels of oil a day, less than such petroleum giants as Saudi Arabia and Russia, but still a significant share of world production. Oil exports are the mainstay of the Libyan economy. Complete removal of Libyan oil from world markets would probably drive prices up, at least until other nations with spare capacity increased their output, according to industry analysts.

    The United States boycotts Libyan oil but has never formally sought an international ban like the one on Iraq, despite Clinton's campaign promise to the families, because key European countries have been unwilling to support it. European nations such as Italy are major buyers of Libyan crude.

    In November 1993, the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions against Libya to ban sales to Libya of oil refining equipment. That action was taken with U.S. support after Italy and Germany opposed imposition of a total oil boycott.

    Lake and his aides have been promising the families that the administration would step up its efforts to bring the two suspects to trial -- a campaign that led the administration last week to offer a $4 million reward for their apprehension. "Of course we're pleased but I'm very doubtful that it's going to go anywhere," said Rosemary Wolfe, whose stepdaughter, Miriam, was among the Pan Am 103 victims. She said Lake told victims' family members in their meeting yesterday that Britain and France, permanent members of the Security Council, would be asked to support the U.S. effort, and said she took that as an indication the administration "isn't willing to take this before the United Nations unilaterally."


    © Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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