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Saturday, June 12, 1999 Published at 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK


US breaks ice with Libya

US says Libya must pay compensation if the suspects are found guilty

Libyan and American officials have had their first formal contact for almost two decades, at a United Nations meeting in New York.

The BBC's Mark Devenport: "Formal lifting of sanctions could be some way off"
Under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, ambassadors from the US, Libya and the UK discussed requirements for lifting international sanctions on Libya.

The sanctions imposed on Libya by the UN in 1992 were suspended in April after the two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing were handed over for trial by a Scottish court in the Netherlands.

The US and the UK had promised to work towards the lifting of sanctions imposed on Libya to get it to hand the men over.

All sides characterised at the meeting as friendly but few details were given away about the substance of the talks.

Libya's UN ambassador, Abu Zed Omar Dorma, expressed the hope that the discussions would mark the beginning of a new phase for the future.

[ image: Ambassador Dorda:
Ambassador Dorda: "Observer rather than participant" in talks
The United States says it is prepared to veto any resolution to lift the sanctions before Washington is "satisfied with the Libyan actions".

"We would like to see Libya genuinely comply and return to full participation in the family of nations," Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk told Congress on Tuesday. "But the requirements set by the Security Council must first be addressed."

The conditions Libya must fulfil are:

  • Co-operate with the investigation and trial

  • End and renounce all forms of terrorism
  • Pay appropriate compensation to relatives victims of Lockerbie bombing
  • Acknowledge responsibility for the actions of Libyan officials

There have been indignant statements from Libya that it is unfair to make such a demands before the Scottish judges in the Netherlands have passed down their judgement.

Libya has been taking advantage of the suspension of the air and arms embargo, steadily emerging from the shadows and re-establishing trade links with the outside world.

Not negotiations

US officials have played down the importance of the meeting. A State Department spokesman said the meeting was not a chance for Libya to negotiate terms.

[ image: Sanctions were approved by Security Council in March 1992]
Sanctions were approved by Security Council in March 1992
Mr Annan is due to give his own opinion about a possible lifting of sanctions in the report, which will be issued in July.

Meetings between senior US and Libyan officials have been extremely rare since the revolution which brought Colonel Gaddafi to power 30 years ago.

The trial of the Libyan suspects, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, has been delayed until February to allow the defence more time for preparation.

Both men have declared themselves innocent of involvement in the bombing of Pan Am 103, which killed 270 passengers and people on the ground in the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

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