Libya Rejects Deadline to Surrender Bomb Suspects
Libya will not accept a 30-day deadline set by the United States and Britain to hand over two Libyans accused of blowing up a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, according to a Libyan statement released Saturday.
State television, monitored in Tunisia, quoted an unidentified Foreign Ministry official as saying that “those who speak about giving a deadline do not want a fair trial” for the two suspects.
He said there was little sense in speaking of a deadline “before agreeing on the arrangements and guarantees” that Libya has demanded in order to hand over the two men.
The United States and Britain, which want the suspects tried in the Netherlands under Scottish law, warned Libya on Friday that it had 30 days to deliver the two men.
The two nations did not say what would happen if Tripoli refuses, but both have threatened to seek further U.N. sanctions.
Libya’s U.N. envoy noted that the full Security Council had not issued an ultimatum. He added that Tripoli wants U.N. sanctions lifted rather than suspended in exchange for any surrender of the suspects.
Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi also appeared to pull back Saturday from a U.N.-brokered compromise on how to handle the case.
He said the International Court of Justice at The Hague is the proper venue for the case, rather than a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands, as he agreed to in August.
Libya has repeatedly sought to clarify any arrangements to try the suspects and has also questioned plans to imprison the suspects, if they are convicted, in Scotland.
It was not clear if Saturday’s statement by Libya was a total rejection of recent efforts to bring the suspects to trial.
In London, British relatives of those who died in the bombing expressed concern Saturday over the decision to impose a deadline on Libya to hand over the suspects.
Dr. Jim Swire, a spokesman for some relatives of the 270 people who died aboard the airliner, accused Washington of trying to ensure that Libya remains a pariah state.