U.S., UK, Libya Discuss Sanctions

Security Council members appear willing for now to give the United States and Britain time to negotiate with Libya on their outstanding demands before pressing to have U.N. sanctions against Tripoli permanently lifted.

The council met behind closed doors for over two hours Tuesday to hear from the U.S. and British ambassadors on their first talks with the Libyan ambassador since a Scottish court convicted a Libyan intelligence agent, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

A second Libyan was acquitted in the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.

With the conviction, the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement of mostly developing nations has pressured the council to permanently erase sanctions that were suspended in 1999 when the two Libyans were handed over for trial.

The powerful 15-member council, which includes veto-wielding United States and Britain, took no action on the resolution.

And no action was immediately expected as long as the U.S.-British-Libyan talks progress "positively and rapidly toward a consensus solution," said Tunisian Ambassador Said Ben Mustapha, the current council president.

Libyan Ambassador Abuzed Omar Dorda said Tuesday he wanted any council decision to lift sanctions to be unanimous, and was "optimistic" that the three sides would reach a settlement.

But he denied that al-Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence agent, and rejected U.S. and British demands that Libya take responsibility for al-Megrahi's actions as required by U.N. resolutions.

"What's the relation between him and the Libyan intelligence agency? None at all," Dorda said. "He's not an official at all. Nobody could prove that he is an official. When this can be proved, then we will talk about it."

In an 82-page ruling released Jan. 31, three Scottish judges in a special court in the Netherlands said they accepted that al-Megrahi was a senior figure in Libya's intelligence agency. He was convicted on a charge of having carried out the bombing "in furtherance of the purposes" of the Libyan intelligence services.

When asked about Dorda's reading of the verdict, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock refused to go into details. "There's a long way to go," he said.

Greenstock and acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham were, however, upbeat that the meeting with Dorda had occurred, saying it had started the process of laying out what Libya must do to remove the sanctions altogether.

"We will be looking to Libya to fulfill the requirements of the U.N. resolutions, including acceptance of responsibility and payment of compensation," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

He made no reference to what the United States has previously said were outstanding requirements that Libya renounce terrorism and turn over all information it has about the bombing.

The Security Council imposed the sanctions in 1992 to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to turn the two men over for trial. The measures included an air travel and arms embargo and a ban on the sale of some oil-related equipment.

No new date for talks was set.

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