USIS Washington 

24 August 1998


("Take it or leave it," SecState tells Libya's government)  (760)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Diplomatic Correspondent

Washington -- The United States and the United Kingdom have decided to
go forward with a proposal to try the two Libyans accused of the 1988
Pan Am bombing before a Scottish court in the Netherlands.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the decision at a
special State Department briefing August 24.

The move is fully consistent with United Nations Security Council
resolutions, Albright said.

The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in flight over Scotland killed all
259 people on board, 186 of whom were Americans. The explosion killed
another 11 people on the ground in the Scottish village of Lockerbie.

Albright noted that Libya has "repeatedly stated its readiness to
deliver the suspects for trial by a Scottish court sitting in a third
country. This approach has been endorsed by the Arab League, the
Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

"We now challenge Libya to turn promises to deeds. The suspects should
be surrendered for trial promptly," the Secretary said.

Albright emphasized that the plan is "a take-it-or-leave-it
proposition. It is not subject to negotiation or change. Nor should it
be subject to additional footdragging or delay.

"We are ready to begin such a trial as soon as Libya turns over the
suspects," the Secretary of State said.

And what if the Libyan government does not turn over the suspects?

"All options remain on the table," a senior administration official
told reporters when asked the question after Albright's announcement.
The official, who spoke on background only, noted that the proposal
for the Scottish trial will be offered for only a short time. But the
official declined to set a deadline for Libya to accept the offer.

The official said the United States has had no direct contact with the
Libyan government led by Muammar Qadhafi but that the Libyans have
signaled their willingness to consider the offer through the
acceptance of the idea by the Arab League, the Organization of African
Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned

If the two suspects are turned over for justice, they will be tried
before a Scottish Court with Scottish judges applying Scottish law,
Albright said.

According to the senior administration official, if the two are found
guilty, they will serve up to a maximum of 30 years in a Scottish
prison. There will be no jury, but three Scottish judges will preside,
the official said.

The two suspects, identified in the press as Abdel Basset Megrahi and
Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, were agents of the Libyan government, US and UK
law enforcement officials concluded after a two-and-a-half-year
investigation, the US official said. State Department officials say
both are in Libya but neither is being held in custody.

Albright noted that one of the suspects was a senior Libyan
intelligence official and the other a former manager of the Libyan
Arab Airlines office in Malta. Both were indicted in US and UK courts
for their parts in the crime.

UN resolutions hold that if the two are turned over for justice,
multilateral sanctions against Libya will be suspended, the senior
administration official told reporters. US unilateral sanctions
against Libya will not be affected, the official said.

For the UN multilateral sanctions to be lifted, Libya must fully
cooperate with UN resolutions calling for Libya to end its sponsorship
of worldwide terrorist activities, the official said.

Albright noted that she has stayed in contact with many of the
American families who had loved ones killed on Pan Am 103. She spoke
with a number of the families before making her announcement at the
State Department, she said.

"These families do not all agree on the proper strategy for achieving
accountability in this case," the Secretary acknowledged. But they all
agree that "the delays in bringing the suspects to trial have gone on
for far too long," she said.

"In dealing with a tragedy as profound and gutwrenching as this, we
cannot speak of achieving true 'justice' in the human sense," Albright
said. "For true justice implies a balancing of the scales. And there
is no action or force or thing on earth that can balance the loss of a
husband or daughter, son, parent or wife.

"But we can and do demand accountability. One way or another,
terrorists must answer for their crimes," the Secretary said.