Libya suffers in isolation

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The Independent Online
EGYPT'S President, Hosni Mubarak, held talks with Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, yesterday to explore ways out of Libya's growing international isolation over its refusal to hand over two intelligence agents suspected of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, writes Charles Richards.

Mr Mubarak experienced at first hand the existing sanctions imposed by the UN against Libya. He had to travel overland from Sidi Barrani to the meeting in Libya because all flights over Libya are banned.

On Friday, the UN Security Council renewed air, arms and diplomatic sanctions on Libya, first imposed on 15 April 1992.

Now Libya has been warned by the three countries most keen to see it prosecuted for international terrorism - the US, France and Britain - that failure to hand over the suspects will lead on 1 October to further sanctions. These include an embargo on oil production equipment, which would devastate Libya's sole strategic industry.

Libya has faced the prospects of further sanctions in a characteristic pattern - playing for as much time as possible to avoid a showdown. First, it sought to mollify the West. It offered the two men for trial, but not in Britain or the US, the only two countries with jurisdiction over the Lockerbie affair. Then reports were leaked that Libya was offering compensation to families of victims. Then on Sunday it adopted a defiant stance, refusing to hand over the suspects altogether.

Its Foreign Liaison Committee, the body set up to deal with the Lockerbie crisis, expressed its 'strong displeasure' with continuation of sanctions 'in spite of the suffering of the Libyan Arab people as a result of the effect of the sanctions imposed on them'.