TUNIS, Tunisia — Libya's Arab neighbors have indicated that they would be prepared to step up the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi to hand over suspects accused in a fatal airline bombing, but a U.N. mission to Libya expressed hope that the crisis could be resolved short of a full trade embargo or other new sanctions.
"We are optimistic that the situation can be resolved soon," Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia said in an interview after meeting with U.N. envoy Vladimir Petrovsky.
"Petrovsky's mission is to find a mechanism to implement the United Nations resolutions, and we hope through this shuttle diplomacy and efforts through the Arab League and other countries we'll find this mechanism soon," Ben Yahia said. "What he told us is that time is of the essence."
Over the weekend, Petrovsky, a special envoy from U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, concluded a five-day mission to Tripoli to discuss Libya's noncompliance with U.N. resolutions requiring the surrender for trial of two suspects in the fatal 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. The Libyan leader must also cooperate in the investigation of the bombing of a French airliner over Africa a year earlier.
"I gave Col. Kadafi the letter from Mr. Boutros-Ghali, and I explained to him that the factor of time was not in favor of Libya, which ought to commit itself immediately to the application of Resolution 748 of the Security Council," Petrovsky told reporters in Tunis after leaving Libya.
"It is time to take concrete measures. The time for discussions is past. And when we talk about concrete measures, we're talking about the application of the resolutions in all their aspects and without conditions," he said.
Petrovsky said the Security Council could meet at any time to escalate the current sanctions against Libya. Since April 15, the sanctions have prevented all international flights to and from Libya, banned military assistance and called on nations around the world to reduce the level of their diplomatic relations with the North African nation accused of supporting international terrorism.
An assistant to the U.N. envoy added that "the message was well understood. We had the impression that Libya will do everything in its power to fully and effectively conform with the resolutions. That's what we were told, and that's the message that Mr. Petrovsky will give to Mr. Boutros-Ghali."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak returned without concrete results from a last-minute meeting with the Libyan leader before the initial Aug. 13 deadline for complying with the resolutions.