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UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The United Nations Security Council voted 13-0 on September 12, creating Resolution 1506, which lifts the 11-year-old sanctions against the nation of Libya.
The United States abstained from voting, saying they were concerned with an alleged Libyan pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its history of sponsoring terrorism. France abstained, claiming that the North African nation still needed watching. “My government will remain “vigilant,” particularly as it concerns allegations of human rights abuses by the Libyan government,” French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said during the open debate of the Security Council.
In 1988, Libya was accused in the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1989 attack of a UTA French airliner over Niger. A total of 440 people were killed in both flights. These accusations resulted in sanctions being imposed on Libya in 1992 that included bans on airline flights, sales of oil equipment and the freezing of Libyan assets.
President Muammar Gadhafi’s administration paid $33 million in 1999 after a French court convicted six Libyans in absentia for the bombings. That same year, the UN suspended the sanctions after Libya handed over two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing. One of the suspects was found guilty and the other was released. On August 15, 2003, Libya paid $3 billion to the families of the Flight 103 victims.
The French had threatened to veto Resolution 1506 unless the Libyans sweetened the pot for the French families victimized by the bombing of the UTA flight. President Gadhafi agreed the day before the vote to pay each family an additional $500,000 to one million dollars.
However, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham told the 15-member council that unilateral American sanctions against Libya would remain “in full effect.” These sanctions include a ban on trade, including oil, and penalties for any U.S. company that invests more than $20 million in Libya’s oil industry. He also said his government still has “serious concerns” about Libya’s support for terrorism and “its irresponsible behavior in Africa.”
“The U.S. is not opposed to the lifting of sanctions, because Libya has formally stated that it accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials,” Ambassador Cunningham said. But he warned that neither Libya nor the world community should view the U.S. decision as tacit acceptance that the government of Libya has “rehabilitated itself.”
Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hassouna al-Shariah, one day after the Security Council vote called on the U.S. to end its 17-year-old sanctions, saying it caused Libya losses of approximately three billion dollars a year, according to the Associated Press.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa also said America should lift its sanctions. Analysts say Mr. Gadhafi has been trying for years to mend fences with the West, in particular the U.S. They point to the fact that he was the first Arab state leader after 9-11 to recognize the U.S.’s sovereign right to self-defense against terrorists operating internationally. He offered Washington help in combating Islamic fundamentalists, and his intelligence services have provided the U.S. with valuable information.
“Libya is a rich nation. The money is nothing to us, but our hope is to make Libya the gateway to Africa,” Alorghami Jhomma Nagi, editor of Ash Shams newspaper, said in a recent editorial. “We are paying the money to buy ourselves peace,” he added. However, regardless of the money settlement, some relatives of the Lockerbie victims have gone on record, saying they are dismayed that Libya has accepted responsibility for the bombing.
In an interview with London newspaper The Observer, British citizen Matt Berkley, whose brother was killed, said he was rejecting the compensation offer. “I haven’t seen what I consider credible evidence that Libya did it, or that any admission by Libya would be truthful, rather then a result of them being pressured,” he said.
Similarly, Tam Dalyeel, a British Member of Parliament for Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party told The Independent newspaper: “(Pres.) Gadhafi may be so desperate to get back into the international fold that he would come to this business deal. The issue remains, have we got the right people? There are many of us who doubt it.”