Lifting Of Libya Sanctions No Lock

1988/12/22 Pan Am flight 103 cockpit wreckage
France is threatening to block a resolution that would lift U.N. sanctions against Libya until it gets a much bigger financial settlement for families of 170 people killed in a 1989 bombing of a French jet.

Those families shared $33 million in a 1999 settlement with Libya, with relatives of each victim on the ill-fated UTA flight receiving about $194,000. But last week, Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner, giving relatives of each victim between $5 million and $10 million.

"We are in favor of the lifting of sanctions on Libya, but at the same time we want fair treatment for the victims of the UTA flight," France's deputy U.N. ambassador Michel Duclos said late Monday.

"This principle of non-discrimination between the victims of terrorism is ... something very important for us," he added. "We are not prepared to make concessions."

Meanwhile, Germany refused to comment on a reported Libyan claim that it helped win the release of 14 European hostage in the Sahara desert from suspected Islamic extremists.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif el-Islam Gadhafi said the charitable foundation he heads used "its political contacts to the kidnappers," to win the release of the nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutch man, the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel reported Monday.

Gadhafi emphasized that his Gadhafi International Association for Charitable Organizations paid no ransom, the report said. The newspaper said it spoke to Gadhafi by telephone Monday night.

Germany is not a permanent member of the Security Council, although it does currently have a seat.

The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions in 1992 to force Gadhafi's government to surrender two men wanted in the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

A compensation deal was a key requirement for the lifting of sanctions, and Libya delivered a letter to the U.N. Security Council Friday meeting the others: it claimed responsibility for bombing the Pan Am jet; renounced terrorism; and pledged to cooperate in future investigations of the crash.

The United States and Britain then declared in a joint letter to the council that Libya had met the conditions for the lifting of sanctions, and Britain introduced a resolution late Monday that would immediately end the ban on arms sales and air links. The sanctions were indefinitely suspended in 1999 after the two Libyans were handed over for trial.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said council ambassadors would discuss the resolution Wednesday and he called for "an early vote," saying: "This has been a long, painful, protracted negotiation, especially for the families."

British diplomats predicted a vote by Friday.

But Duclos said, "We will not accept a resolution if there is no settlement."

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said Monday a new round of talks between Libya and families of the UTA victims had made important progress.

"I hope very much that a fair agreement with the Libyans will be reached fairly quickly," Duclos said. If not, "I think there will be agreement among all members of the council that in this case the vote on the resolution should be postponed."

Neither Pozzo di Borgo nor Duclos openly threatened to use France's veto if the resolution was put to a vote without getting a better deal for the UTA victims. But council diplomats said Duclos made clear at Monday's closed council meeting that under such circumstances, France would oppose the resolution.

The resolution, which is being cosponsored by Bulgaria, only needs nine "yes" votes, and no veto.

U.S. officials said the United States is likely to abstain. The Bush administration has also made clear that the United States will maintain separate U.S. sanctions against Libya.

Several council diplomats noted that the difference in compensation — Pan Am victims' families are getting more than 25 times as much as the UTA families — is at least partly due to the differences in the French and U.S. legal systems.

The $33 million UTA compensation was set by a French judge, while the $2.7 billion settled a civil suit brought in 1996 by the Lockerbie victims. If the case had gone to a U.S. court, the total amount could have been even higher, the diplomats noted.

Council diplomats said Duclos made clear at the closed meeting that France wasn't seeking parity with the Lockerbie settlement, but an equitable and fair solution. He also noted that the victims came from more than a dozen countries.