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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK

Libya's Lockerbie response awaited

Colonel Gadaffi: No response yet

The United States and Britain are awaiting a response from Libya after agreeing that two Libyans accused of blowing up an American airliner over Lockerbie, in Scotland, can be tried in the Netherlands.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said it was up to Libya to honour its undertaking to give the suspects over for trial in a third country.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins: "Difficult to predict Gadaffi's reaction"
Mr Cook appeared on Arabic television station MBC to address the Libyan leader, Colonel Gadaffi.

In a brief sub-titled statement, Mr Cook strongly stressed the link between the trial and the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Libyan trade and air traffic.

[ image: Robin Cook:
Robin Cook: "Libya proposed the agreement in the first place"
Mr Cook said: "It is in our and Libya's interest to have the trial. Colonel Gadaffi and the Libyan Government want the sanctions imposed on their country lifted.

"We want the trial in order to reveal the facts to the victims' families.

"It is useful for them [the Libyans] to accept an agreement they proposed in the first place.

"Justice will take its course and the sanctions will be lifted."

Robin Cook: The innocent have nothing to fear from a Scottish trial
The UK and US governments earlier removed a major stumbling block to the trial of the two Libyan suspects, Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, by agreeing to a trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands.

[ image: Lockerbie burning after Flight 103 exploded in the sky]
Lockerbie burning after Flight 103 exploded in the sky
They had previously insisted on a trial in either Scotland or the US for the two men whom both governments believe were behind the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland.

In all, 270 people died in what was the worst terrorist atrocity on British soil.

Libya claimed the men would not receive a fair trial and refused to hand them over.

The UN responded by imposing trade and air transport sanctions in 1992.

Mr Cook described the decision to allow a trial in a third country as "an historic innovation in international legal practice" and urged Libya to cooperate "quickly and without equivocation".

Abdelbari Atwan from the Al-Quds Newspaper: "I believe the Libyans are still hesitant"
Mr Cook has asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to inform Libya of the agreement and seek arrangements for the transfer of the two accused pending trial.

In his address on MBC, Mr Cook made it clear that the UK will support action in the UN Security Council to suspend sanctions against Libya as soon as the two accused are handed over for trial.

[ image: Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi: Could be extradited soon]
Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi: Could be extradited soon
Mr Cook said: "For years, Libya has promised that it would accept a court without jury, meeting in a third country. That way forward is now open to them.

"It is a way forward that holds out the prospect of lifting the hardship of sanctions on the people of Libya - and ending the long wait for justice of the relatives of those who were murdered.

"It is now up to Libya to honour their undertakings to hand over the two accused for trial."

Madeleine Albright: Take it or leave it
Both US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Mr Cook made it clear in a simultaneous statement on Monday that the third country offer was "take it or leave it".

The move has been seen as calling Colonel Gadaffi's bluff. Some commentators believe that he has been stalling since 1988 and never intended to hand over the suspects.

Libya has yet to respond to the proposal for a third country trial.

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