- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council lifted air and arms sanctions against Libya yesterday, clearing the way for its multimillion-dollar payment to families of 270 victims of the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Both the United States and France abstained from the 13-0 vote, which Paris had delayed for several weeks while the families of a separate 1989 airline bombing negotiated with Libya for their own compensation.

“Our decision … must not be misconstrued by Libya or by the world community as tacit U.S. acceptance that the government of Libya has rehabilitated itself,” said Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham.

Yesterday’s council decision has no impact on unilateral U.S. sanctions against Libya, nor did it seem to bring much joy to the dozens of family members of Lockerbie victims who had gathered in the council to witness the vote.

“The United States continues to have serious concerns about other aspects of Libyan behavior, including its poor human rights record, its rejection of democratic norms and standards, its irresponsible behavior in Africa, its history of involvement in terrorism, and — most important — its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery,” Mr. Cunningham said.

“Libya is actively pursuing a broad range of [weapons of mass destruction], and is seeking ballistic missiles. … Libya’s continued nuclear infrastructure upgrades raise concerns. Tripoli is actively developing biological and chemical weapons. The United States will intensify its efforts to end Libya’s threatening actions. This includes keeping U.S. … sanctions on Libya in full force.”

Families of 270 Lockerbie victims will receive $4 million each as a result of yesterday’s U.N. vote, from a $2.7 billion compensation package agreed to by Libya. They would receive another $4 billion if the United States lifts its sanctions and still another $2 billion if the United States removes Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Some 40 family members watched the vote from the council’s visitors gallery, many of them listening to the speeches with closed eyes and clenched fists. Others held hands and blinked back tears.

“Today we brought [Libyan leader Col. Moammar] Gadhafi to his knees,” said Kathleen Flynn, whose son John Patrick Flynn was killed in the Dec. 21, 1988, explosion. Nonetheless, she said, “this is just another day for us, another day without our son.”

The size of the Lockerbie settlement embarrassed the French government, which years ago agreed to accept token compensation — less than $200,000 per victim — in connection with the 1989 bombing of the French UTA flight over Niger.

France had threatened to veto the resolution unless Tripoli came up with a richer payment to the families of the 170 victims of the UTA bombing.

Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said France had dropped its veto threat because “conditions have been established for an equitable settlement of this painful matter, which involves … 17 nationalities.”

The ambassador also urged the Libyans to compensate the victims of the 1986 bombing at Berlin’s La Belle disco, and said Paris “intends to be vigilant with respect to everything involving human rights and combating terrorism.”

German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger reluctantly voted in favor of the resolution, even though the La Belle victims remain uncompensated.

“It is not part of this resolution, and therefore there is really nothing we can do,” he said after the vote. Three persons were killed in the bombing and more than 50 seriously injured, many of them off-duty American servicemen.

Libya’s government-controlled radio yesterday called the vote “another victory.”

“With that vote Libya is entering another stage and opening another page thanks to its ability and wisdom in handling the battle,” Reuters quoted the radio report as saying.

U.N. sanctions against Libya were suspended in 1999 after the government transferred two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing to a special Scottish court convened in the Netherlands.

One of the two, Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi, was convicted by the court of murder in 2001 and is now serving a life sentence in a Scottish prison. The other was found not guilty.

Remaining U.S. sanctions include a ban on American oil companies doing business in Libya, which is among the top 10 countries in the world in oil reserves.

The sanctions also prohibit weapons contracts, economic ties and investment by U.S. firms, and bar most U.S. travel to Libya.

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