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Resolution Calls for End to U.N.'s Libya Sanctions

France, which opposes such a step unless Tripoli boosts the payments in a 1989 jetliner bombing, asks for a delay in the vote.

August 19, 2003|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — Britain submitted a draft resolution Monday to lift U.N. sanctions on Libya, discreetly pressuring France to not let its own dispute with Tripoli over compensation for airline bombing victims block a vote this week.

"Our wish is to see an early vote," British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said as he left a meeting of the Security Council. "This has been a long, painful, protracted negotiation, especially for the families."

The U.N. embargo on arms, oil refining equipment and air travel was suspended in 1999 after Libya handed over for trial two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Formal lifting of the sanctions will be the last step toward resolving 15 years of wrangling over responsibility for the attack.

Last week, Libya agreed to pay as much as $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families and declared its responsibility for the bombing in a letter to the Security Council.

"I think we will need to move ahead and resolve the Libyan issue," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday as Libyan diplomats prepared to deliver the letter. Since the suspension, Annan said, "for all practical purposes, the sanctions have not really been effective, and so the formal lifting, I think, is something that the council should do and I expect it to do."

France has threatened a veto unless Libya boosts payments to relatives of 171 people killed when a jet operated by French airline UTA exploded over the Sahara in 1989. Libya has paid families in that case compensation ranging from $3,378 to $33,780 -- a fraction of the amount pledged to the 270 Lockerbie families, who could receive as much as $10 million each.

"France, in the name of fairness, wants another agreement to be quickly reached between the UTA victims and Libyan authorities," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said.

French Deputy Ambassador Michel Duclos asked the Security Council on Monday to defer the vote to allow more time for negotiations. "We will not compromise," he said.

Libya has agreed in principle to increase compensation for the French families in some form, U.N. diplomats say, although it may be posturing publicly while negotiating privately.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said Saturday that Libya would not reopen the French case.

"That file is completely closed," Chalgam said in an interview with CNN. " We had an agreement with ... the French, and it is completely settled. Any kind of extortion or blackmailing, we are not going to accept that."

At the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the Bush administration welcomed Libya's admission of responsibility and did not oppose lifting U.N. sanctions.

U.S. diplomats, though, have said they are considering abstaining from the vote, and the White House is not ready to consider lifting a separate set of U.S. sanctions against Libya.

"Our United States sanctions will remain in place because we still have a number of serious concerns when it comes to Libya, most notably their continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their continued participation in regional conflicts in Africa that have been very destructive and unhelpful," McClellan said. He refused to specify the conditions that would allow a lifting of U.S. sanctions.

U.S. and U.N. officials say Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi has continued to supply weapons to conflicts across Africa. This month, a Libyan plane laden with arms and ammunition was intercepted by peacekeepers in Liberia.

Times staff writer Maura Reynolds in Washington contributed to this report.

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