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White House to Retain Sanctions Against Libya

The U.S. remains wary even after the regime's acceptance of blame for the Pan Am blast.

August 16, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will keep a diplomatic and economic squeeze on Libya despite the country's acceptance of responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Scotland.

Libya officially accepted responsibility in a letter delivered Friday to the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Mikhail Wehbe. The letter was part of a $2.7-billion settlement with the families of the 270 people killed in the bombing, most of them Americans.

Each family is likely to receive at least $5 million and could receive $10 million from the $2.7 billion that Libya will deposit next week in an international bank.

In a joint letter delivered to the Syrian ambassador, whose government currently holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. and Britain said they were "prepared to allow the lifting" of U.N. sanctions once Libya deposited the compensation into an escrow account.

However, the United States probably would abstain from voting on the resolution, a U.S. official said. And U.S. sanctions against Libya will remain in place.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, "The Libyan regime's behavior -- including its poor human rights record and lack of democratic institutions, its destructive role in perpetuating regional conflicts in Africa and its continued and worrisome pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their related delivery systems -- remains a cause for serious concern."

The United States would intensify its efforts to end "threatening elements" of Libya's behavior, and American sanctions on Libya would remain in full force until the nation addressed these concerns, McClellan said in a statement.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a statement that "combating the evil of terrorism remains a paramount commitment of the United States. We will not relent in that continuing struggle."

Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Emyr Jones Parry, said the Libyan letter "set out very clearly" that Libya has met the conditions for lifting U.N. sanctions and that the U.S. agreed.

But a U.S. official told reporters that the United States would probably abstain rather than support the resolution, would maintain its sanctions against Libya and had no plan to remove the country from the State Department's list of terrorism sponsors.

A U.S. official cited human rights violations and meddling in the affairs of African countries such as Sierra Leone, Chad and Liberia, and its alleged weapons program, as reasons for not lifting sanctions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The United States will also proceed with an ongoing criminal investigation of the bombing, with which Libya promises in its agreement to cooperate. Libya also pledges in its letter to renounce terrorism in all forms.

The U.N. sanctions bar arms sales and air links to Libya. They were suspended in 1999 after Libya handed over two agents indicted in the Pan Am bombing for trial.

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