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EDITIONS
Friday, 2 February, 2001, 15:47 GMT
Arab press says Libyan sanctions must go
Libyan-owned newspaper
The Lockerbie defendants are Libyan heroes
In a strong reaction to the Lockerbie verdict, the Arab press has accused Britain and the USA of using the case as a political issue and has sharply criticised the two countries for failing to lift sanctions on Libya immediately.

The London-based Al-Hayat said the trial was an attempt by Washington to "change the Libyan regime" rather than reveal the truth behind the bombing of the Pan Am aircraft over Lockerbie in 1988.

"It is obvious that the trial was not concerned with justice ... The victims' rights, the payment of compensation and their relatives' desire to know the truth were subjugated to political purposes."

'US arrogance'

The London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi also described the verdict as "in keeping with the wishes of the United Kingdom and the United States" and questioned its validity.

"All the legal experts, who spoke on British television channels, said there was no smoking gun evidence to convict the two accused and expected them to be found not guilty as charged. "It is US arrogance in its worst form, an arrogance which chose Libya because it was the weakest link."

The paper added that although the West was trying to "blackmail" Libya to pay compensation, the verdict and the lifting of sanctions were two completely separate issues.


It is US arrogance in its worst form, an arrogance which chose Libya because it was the weakest link

Al-Quds al-Arabi
It said: "The Libyan Jamahiriyah is the target of a British-US blackmail campaign aimed at pressuring officials there to admit to their involvement in the Lockerbie incident and to pay compensation to the families of the victims worth around $700m.

"This link has no legal basis. The Libyan Jamahiriyah is not responsible for the actions of its citizens abroad, just like any other government. "Otherwise, the United States would have to pay compensation for all the crimes it committed in Vietnam, Iraq, and finally in Libya, which it bombed in 1987, killing many of its citizens during its attack on West Tripoli."

Compensation?

However, Al-Quds al-Arabi said Libya was now in a stronger position than before and hinted that the authorities should therefore consider the issue of compensation if it led to improved relations with the West.

Libyans with protest placard
Arabs are calling on the UN to act
"If payment of compensation leads to the lifting of sanctions and to the opening of a new chapter in relations between Libya and the United Kingdom and the United States, then the matter deserves attention and very careful thought," it said.

"The 'mediators' who persuaded the Libyan authorities to hand over the two accused must intervene with the necessary speed to create an honourable way out that will bring the curtain down on this US theatre of blackmail."

Reward for co-operation

The London-based Asharq al-Awsat also told the USA and Britain to reward Libya for its co-operation by lifting sanctions immediately.

It advised against taking "a hard-line position" and called on Washington and London to "respond to the Libyan initiative".

Al-Ahram in neighbouring Egypt also called on Washington and London to close the affair, saying that Libya's expectations that sanctions would be lifted was "only natural and understandable".


The Libyan Jamahiriyah is the target of a British-US blackmail campaign

Al-Quds Al-Arabi
The Algerian press gave a mixed response to the verdict - Le Monde Aujourd'hui said it satisfied all parties and hoped Libya could now leave what it called "the ghetto". Sawt El Ahrar said it hoped the USA would now be able to turn the page on the past.

But on a gloomier note, Le Quotidien d'Oran said the verdict was marked to a great extent by "political ambiguity". Even more pessimistic was La Tribune, which said that "diplomats believe it is very unlikely that the USA and Britain will accept a quick lifting of the international sanctions on Libya".


BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

02 Feb 01 | Middle East
31 Jan 01 | World
02 Feb 01 | Talking Point
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