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    U.N. Presses Libya on Bombing

    By Trevor Rowe
    Special to The Washington Post
    Wednesday, January 22, 1992; Page A01

    UNITED NATIONS, JAN. 21 -- The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution today urging Libya to "provide a full and effective response" to U.S. and British requests for the surrender of two Libyans linked to the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people were killed.

    The resolution avoids calling for the "extradition" of the two Libyans because under international law such a move would be highly unusual. The United States, Britain and France, co-sponsors of the resolution, have no extradition treaties with Libya.

    But U.S. and British diplomats told the council that while they are not seeking the formal extradition of Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, 39, and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah 35, they want Libya to hand them over for trial either in the United States or Scotland.

    Should the Libyan government not comply with the council's demands, the document could become the basis for a possible resolution calling for limited sanctions against Libya such as the cutoff of international air links and an embargo on the sale of aircraft and spare parts.

    "The council was faced in this case with clear implications of government involvement in terrorism as well as the absence of an independent judiciary in the implicated state," U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering told the council. "The resolution makes clear that neither Libya nor any other state can seek to hide support for international terrorism behind traditional principles of international law and state practice."

    Pickering told the council that because the two men were agents of the Libyan government, it would be virtually impossible for them to receive an impartial trial in Libya.

    The two were charged in the United States and Britain with multiple felony counts, including three that carry the death penalty in this country, for the Lockerbie bombing.

    The French earlier issued arrest warrants for four higher-ranking Libyan intelligence officials, including a brother-in-law of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, for the bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger in 1989.

    In a separate demand referred to in today's resolution, France called on Libya to produce all evidence in its possession pertaining to the UTA bombing and to authorize the Libyan officials responsible for it to respond to any requests made by the French magistrate investigating the case.

    In a speech to the council before the vote, Libyan ex-foreign minister Jadallah Azzuz Talhi, currently minister for strategic industries, criticized the indictments as "groundless" and based on "guesswork." He said the requests for the surrender of the two agents were "unjust" and a "cover for military and economic aggression on a small country."

    It is unclear whether there is enough support in the council for a further resolution on sanctions against Libya. Western diplomats are cautious in their assessments of success but at the same time aware of the political pressures to seek redress from Libya.

    "The council will be watching carefully how Libya responds," Pickering said. "The council will proceed in a step-by-step manner, I am sure, to maintain its commitment to international peace and security.

    "If further action should be necessary, and we hope it will not be, we are convinced that the council is ready on a continuing basis to face up to its full responsibilities."

    From a legal perspective, the resolution is considered unusual. "If it's understood to mean that it's a demand for extradition from someone who is not {an extradition} treaty partner, then it is unprecedented," said Ruth Wedgwood, an associate professor of international law at Yale University.

    British Ambassador Sir David Hannay cautioned, however, that the resolution did not set a broad precedent.

    "We are dealing only with terrorism in which there is state involvement. In the circumstances of this case, it must be clear to all that the state which is itself implicated in the acts of terrorism cannot try its own officials," Hannay said.

    © Copyright 1992 The Washington Post Company

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