Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2003 17:26 UK

Analysis: Lifting sanctions on Libya

By Mike Wooldridge
BBC's World Affairs Correspondent

The UN Security Council has voted to lift its sanctions against Libya, following Tripoli's offer of compensation to families of the victims of the Lockerbie and the French UTA airliner bombings.

Lockerbie crash
The bombing over Lockerbie killed 270 people in 1988
So what are the implications of lifting the 11-year-old sanctions?

It is not just one of the biggest compensation payouts of all time - it is also Libya's place in the world.

A complex web of diplomacy finally produced a deal for the families of the victims of the Lockerbie airliner bombing in 1988.

Relatives of each of the 270 passengers and crew who were killed are to be paid $10m in compensation - if American as well as UN sanctions are lifted and Libya is also taken off the US Government's list of terrorism sponsoring states.

Security Council approval was assured when France announced on Thursday it was dropping a threat to veto the resolution, after relatives of those who died in the 1989 UTA bombing over Niger won a pledge of more compensation from Tripoli.

Tough negotiations

France had delayed the vote for several weeks and it abstained in Friday's vote, as did the United States, which is maintaining its own unilateral sanctions on Libya.

So protracted were the negotiations that Britain - one of the two co-sponsors of the UN resolution for the lifting of the UN sanctions - was extremely keen to see the momentum maintained.

First imposed in 1992
Flight ban
Weapons sales ban
Freeze on Libyan funds
Ban oil-related exports to Libya
Reduce Libyan diplomatic representation

Bulgaria, which chairs the UN's Libya sanctions committee, was the other co-sponsor of the resolution.

There have also been significant bilateral ties between Bulgaria and Libya - mainly in construction and other industries and in the health sector.

Does the agreement draw a line under the bombing of Pan Am flight 103?

For some of the victims' relatives, evidently not. They still want an independent inquiry.

And there is no sign yet when - perhaps even if - the Americans will take the steps required of them regarding sanctions and the terror list that should see the full amount of compensation being paid.

But events will take a new turn now.

Oil-rich Libya has experienced relatively strong economic growth in recent years but it also has high unemployment and various weaknesses in its infrastructure.

Cautious progress

Today it is keen to secure foreign investment. That will potentially interest British companies - and American firms, too, some of them likely to put pressure on the US Government to move ahead on the lifting of American bilateral sanctions.

Colonel Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi
Gaddafi is keen to secure foreign investment in Libya

But negative views about Libya remain strong in the US, too. Because of that, progress in normalising relations between Libya and the US - a key goal for Tripoli - is expected to be cautious.

Saad Djebbar of the Centre for North African Studies at Cambridge University says there could be a gradual, step-by-step opening up of relations.

He believes the diplomacy so far, driven along by Britain, has helped to establish some degree of trust between the Libyans and the Americans.

He can now foresee Libya taking steps to reassure the US over one of its main concerns - weapons of mass destruction - and that this could be followed, for example, by the US gradually lifting trade restrictions.

But there is concern about the safeguards for foreign investment in Libya and there are human rights issues at stake, too.

If events do move in that direction, Saad Djebbar sees the possibility that diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli could be restored in the next year or two.

The Lockerbie file itself may be closing. But the diplomacy - and the bargaining - is far from over.

Libya agrees bombing deal
01 Sep 03 |  Europe
Libya completes Lockerbie payout
22 Aug 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Libya
16 Aug 03 |  Country profiles


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