Blair asks Libya for Lockerbie suspects

THE PRIME MINISTER yesterday called on Libya to hand over the two suspects involved in the Lockerbie bombing. "The United Nations has made it quite clear now that it supports this way forward," Tony Blair said. It is obviously important that Libya complies.

The noises appear to be welcoming, but they have to be followed by the action of actually delivering up the suspects.

Mr Blair said Britain took the decision to go for the third country option after a lot of debate and hesitation because it was believed it was the "only way" of securing a chance of bringing these people to justice.

The resolution by the Security Council backing the American and British proposal to hold the trial in The Netherlands under Scottish law was backed unanimously.

Mr Blair said he felt particularly felt for the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, adding that, "it was important for them to have the possibility, the opportunity, of having those people brought to justice because that is a big part of their continuing anguish."

The United Nations voted yesterday to lift sanctions against Libya once it hands over two of its intelligence agents accused of the Lockerbie bombing.

The response from the Libyan government, however, appeared to be confusing and contradictory. Its UN ambassador, Abuzed Omar Dorda, stated in New York that his country accepted the plan, adding: "We reaffirm this position today, this is a serious position, an irreversible position."

However, later in the day the Tripoli regime criticised the Security Council resolution, stressing it was not committed by an agreement reached between Britain, the United States and The Netherlands and asked instead for direct negotiations with Libya.

The Libyan foreign ministry maintained that crucial talks needed to be held over the guarantee of safety of the two suspects, as well as aspects of the legal procedure, before any progress could be made.

The hard line from Tripoli echoed some of the reservations expressed by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in an interview with the television network CNN in which he claimed that Britain and the US would find ways to make the holding of the trial impossible.

He said: "I think Libya has no objections. But I am not sure America and Britain have the good intention to solve this problem. I am not assured they are serious.

"More details have to be clear. You cannot say give us these two people quickly; they are not tins of fruit. They are human beings.

"Their destiny must be assured. What is the destiny of the suspects if they are convicted or acquitted, and if they take any appeal action."

The Libyan leader went on to " warn" London and Washington not to engage in any "tricks" to sabotage the prospect of a hearing.

The Foreign Office in London stated that overall the prospects of an agreement still looked positive, and said it welcomed the Libyan decision to hand over the two intelligence officers to the judicial process.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the bombing of the PanAm Flight 103, also welcomed the developments, but said it was "highly unlikely" that that a prosecution would be successful.

He said: "The evidence is very weak. I think it is highly unlikely that any case against the two men would succeed. But we still need this trial to go ahead, it is what we have fought for all these years.

"There is no point, after all these years, in trying to hurry the Libyans and hassle them into a trial if the first thing the defence does at the beginning of the trial is stand up and say they will not get a fair hearing."

British and American bereaved families are split over negotiating with the Libyans, said Dr Swire.

Many of the American families are opposed to any talks being held and "some of them seem to want military strikes against Libya, and have already decided on the guilt of these two men".

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