- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union yesterday ended 12 years of sanctions against Libya and eased an arms embargo to reward the North African country for giving up plans to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The decision by the EU foreign ministers brought the 25-nation bloc in line with a U.N. decision last year and reflected a significant warming of relations in recent months.

“This is a turning point in relations with Libya,” said French European Affairs Minister Claudie Haignere.

The United States lifted most of its commercial sanctions in April after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi abandoned his banned weapons programs.

The U.N. sanctions were imposed in 1992 to force Tripoli to hand over two Libyans indicted for the 1988 bombing of an American airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

A year later, they were expanded to include a freeze on Libyan assets in foreign bank accounts and a ban on buying oil equipment.

The U.N. Security Council suspended the sanctions after the two Lockerbie suspects were delivered for trial in 1999. It abolished them last year, after Libya agreed to compensate the families of the Lockerbie victims, as well as those of the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger.

The European Union, like the United States, wants to improve relations with Libya now that Tripoli has scrapped its program to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Britain was pushing for a complete normalization of relations between the 25-nation European Union and Libya and a full lifting of a separate arms embargo, said a senior British official in London.

But friction remains over a Libyan court’s conviction of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting more than 400 Libyan children with the AIDS virus. They were sentenced to death in May.

Human rights groups say Libya concocted the experiment story to hide unsafe practices in its hospitals and clinics. Bulgaria has close ties with the European Union and is to become a full member in 2007.

“We are very concerned about the situation of the Bulgarian citizens,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, adding that the European Union wants that court ruling to be reversed.

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