Libya seeks respectability

Accord: Britain restores relations, suggesting sanctions worked and need for them has ended.

July 11, 1999

THE PRESSURE is now on the United States to end the unilateral sanctions it slapped on Libya in 1981 for alleged support of terrorism.

It should consider doing so, following the lead of Britain, which on Wednesday ended the sanctions it imposed in 1984, after gunfire from inside the Libyan embassy in London killed Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher, who was keeping order at a demonstration outside.

Further ensuring Libya's pariah status were United Nations sanctions inhibiting air travel and investment in Libya's oil industry. Those measures followed dictator Muammar el Kadafi's refusal to hand over two agents accused of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Scotland that killed 270.

Mr. Kadafi, who desperately wants to end Libya's isolation, delivered the two suspects in April. The U.N. Security Council then suspended the sanctions, which remain on the books.

Last week, Libya also took responsibility for Constable Fletcher's death and agreed to cooperate with a British investigation. In response, Britain agreed to resume diplomatic relations.

All this, along with a U.N. resolution that seeks to formally end the sanctions, puts pressure on the United States to act. So far, London is sticking with Washington but, as relations with Tripoli normalize, it will be tempted to stray.

London and Washington exercise more influence in world affairs when they stick together, which they should do now. Economic sanctions that work generally are international, binding and linked to demands that can be met.

Colonel Kadafi is going the extra mile to re-enter the community of nations. If his good behavior continues and no further Libyan support for terrorism emerges, Washington may soon have to concede that sanctions worked, and declare victory.

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