After several delays in recent weeks, the United Nations Security Council today finally lifted decade-old sanctions imposed against Libya over the deadly bombing in 1988 of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, after Tripoli agreed to pay up to $10 million each to the families of the 270 victims.
The vote on the resolution, adopted by 13 in favour with two abstentions – France and the United States – had been postponed repeatedly while Paris negotiated with Libya to improve a settlement of $34 million it had already reached over the similar bombing of a French UTA plane over Niger in 1989, which killed 170 people.
Welcoming the vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement he hoped this "important step, along with the settlement arrangements agreed following many years of intensive negotiations, will help bring some comfort to the families of the victims of the tragic events" over Scotland and Niger "as the international community strives to bring this tragic chapter to a close."
The sanctions, which included a ban on military sales, air communications and certain oil equipment, had already been suspended by the Council in 1999 after Libya agreed to hand over two nationals for trial before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands in connection with the bombing. One of them, Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, was convicted and jailed for his role.
The United Kingdom and Bulgaria cosponsored the resolution after Libya told the Council in August of its readiness to cooperate in the international fight against terrorism and compensate the families of those killed at Lockerbie, as demanded by Council resolutions 748 of 1992 and 883 of 1993.
Earlier this week, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who is Council President for the month of September, said Libya’s current compliance with the terms of the earlier resolutions could allow it to move back into the international community.
Amb. James Cunningham
Explaining his country's vote, US Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said Libya had tied payment of some funds to changes in US sanctions imposed against it for, among other things, a history of involvement in terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction - "something clearly outside the scope of UN requirements." Mr. Cunningham added: "The US cannot guarantee that Libya will take the required steps and we would not want our vote on the resolution lifting sanctions to be misconstrued as a decision now to modify US bilateral measures regardless of Libyan behaviour."
Amb. Jean-Marc de La Sablière
For his part, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière welcomed an agreement yesterday between the families of the UTA victims and Libya on further compensation but said France would remain vigilant to see that the accord was quickly put into effect.Mr. de La Sablière also called on Libya to settle other international grievances against it, including a settlement for the victims of a bomb attack on the La Belle disco in Berlin in 1986 and added: "We also intend to underscore our vigilance for everything that concerns human rights and the fight against terrorism."
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