Libya lobbies families of crash victims Efforts aim to lift U.N. sanctions stemming from Pan Am explosion

October 19, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS -- Apparently encouraged by African and Asian support for its campaign to have U.N. sanctions lifted, Libya is lobbying the families of people killed in the explosion of a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988 in the hope of persuading them to settle the case, the mother of one victim says.

Libya has been under limited sanctions forbidding international air traffic because it has refused to turn over for trial in Scotland two Libyan suspects the United States and Britain want to see tried.

Letter from envoy

Susan Cohen, whose daughter, Theodora Cohen, was 20 when Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, said in an interview that families in the United States received a letter this month from Libya's U.N. representative drawing attention to speeches made in support of his country in this fall's General Assembly debate.

The letter said that only Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of Britain objected in speeches to Libya's request to have the sanctions lifted before the suspects are extradited.

Libyan offers

Col. Muammar el Kadafi, the Libyan leader, has made various offers over the years, most recently agreeing to have the two tried under Scottish law and by Scottish judges -- but not in Scotland.

He has suggested a trial in a third country, or at the International Court of Justice. Britain and the United States have rejected the offer.

Last week, Libyans were in The Hague, arguing that the international court should take over the case.

Libya has been accused of being behind not only the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103, with the loss of 270 lives, but also the explosion that destroyed a French airliner over Niger in 1989, in which 171 people died.

Cohen, who lives in Cape May Courthouse, N.J., said families of the Lockerbie victims were divided about how to keep their campaign alive, with some urging others to accept compensation from the Libyans.

She said a group of lawyers has been asking American families to settle out of court.

A similar offer is making some headway in Britain, she said, as is backing for Libya's plan to hold a trial in a third country.

"I am very worried about this," Cohen said. "I don't want Kadafi to get away with a payoff. My life's been destroyed by this."

Some families have filed a civil suit hoping to settle with the Libyan government. But Libya's main purpose in lobbying the families is to get their agreement for a trial outside of Scotland, which would open the way to removing the sanctions.

Recently, the Arab League and the Organization of African Unity adopted positions sympathetic to Libya. Many diplomats are convinced that enthusiasm for continuing sanctions has been steadily waning.

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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