U.N. panel urges Libya to turn over bombing suspects

January 22, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously called on Libya yesterday to cooperate with investigations and to surrender for trial two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

The council also demanded that Libya produce evidence in connection with the bombing of a French airliner in 1989. If Libya does not agree, Western diplomats said they will ask the council to impose mandatory sanctions against the government of Col. Muammar el Kadafi, probably including denying landing rights to Libyan airliners.

Yesterday's action was the first time that the council has requested the extradition of citizens of one nation to stand trial in another country. The resolution asked U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to try to persuade Libya to "provide a full and effective response."

"The council has clearly reaffirmed the right of all states to protect its citizens," said U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. "We hope that Libya will respond effectively and do so rapidly. The council expects Libyan compliance with the resolution. The enormity of the crimes demands no less.

"The council will be watching how Libya responds," Mr. Pickering said. "The council will be acting in a step-by-step measure to ensure its commitment to international peace and security."

The United States will take over from Britain as president of the Security Council in February, and some diplomats saw that fact as posing an informal six-week deadline to Libya.

"We trust that the Libyan authorities will now see reason and comply fully and effectively with our requests and make available the accused for trial in Scotland or the United States," said British Ambassador David Hannay. "This was a mass murder, and one in which we have good reason to believe the organs of a state member of the United Nations were implicated."

Mr. Hannay said that more than two months have passed since Britain asked Libya to make the accused available for trial. "Instead, the Libyan authorities have prevaricated and have resorted to even wider diversionary tactics," Mr. Hannay asserted.

The resolution was sponsored by the United States, Britain and France.

In a last-minute effort to head off the vote, Libya told the council that it would accept arbitration to decide responsibility for the Pan Am crash and the bombing of a French UTA airliner in 1989 over Niger. When the French DC-10 exploded on Sept. 19, 1989, 171 people were killed.

Speaking before the unanimous 15-member vote, Jadallah Azuz el-Talhy, Libya's minister of industry, said that U.S. and British indictments of the suspects were "based on guesswork."

Mr. Talhy said that Libya had ordered two of its investigating judges to look into the charges but had received no cooperation from the Americans, British or French.

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