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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 15:17 GMT
Libya seeking sanctions prize
Tripoli scene
The trial has not been covered extensively in Libya
Following the Lockerbie verdicts, Middle East analyst Roger Hardy examines the implications for the Gaddafi regime in Libya.

The Libyan leader never wanted this trial. It took years of tireless mediation to persuade him to hand over two of his citizens for trial in the Netherlands.

He did so for essentially two reasons - because he badly wanted to get off the hook of United Nations sanctions which were imposed on Libya in 1992, and because he was, in the end, pretty sure that the political fallout from the affair was manageable.

In other words, even if one or both of the Libyans were found guilty, he himself would not be implicated.

Police guard debris from Pan Am bombing in Lockerbie
Libya's stance is that it had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bombing
Sanctions would be lifted and Libya's international isolation would gradually come to an end.

For Colonel Gaddafi that is still the prize.

The UN sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992 are more political than economic in their effect.

They serve to isolate the country and make it a political pariah. But in economic terms they are not severe - nothing like as harsh as those against Iraq, for example.

They affect transport links to and from Libya; the scaling down of diplomatic representation in Libya - but have not stopped co-operation in the all-important oil sector between Libya and the outside world.

Sanctions were suspended when the trial began in the Netherlands in May 2000. To get them formally lifted, Libya must do three things:

  • Hand over all the information it has about the Lockerbie affair

  • Pay compensation to the victims

  • Renounce terrorism in a clearcut way.

None of this will come as a surprise to Colonel Gaddafi.

He has known all along what is required of him. But there may be some haggling over what constitutes fair compensation, and whether Libya is holding back any vital information.

His calculation is that realpolitik will prevail in Western capitals - including Washington, even if the Bush administration still continues to regard Libya with some suspicion.

For the relatives of the Lockerbie victims, realpolitik has coloured this whole affair from the start.

For them, the verdict has been both a vindication - in that one of the Libyans was found guilty - and a disappointment, since they fear Western governments are now eager to draw a line under the whole affair.

That would mean for them that justice had been sacrificed to expediency.

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30 Jan 01 | World
Analysis: Lockerbie's long road
24 Jan 01 | World
Q&A: The Lockerbie trial
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