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February 24, 2004
Libya Backtracking on Lockerbie Responsibility

With all of the recent good news coming from Tripoli's cooperation in eliminating its WMD programs, it's a bit disappointing to see them retreating from the positions that allowed them entry to the West in the first place:

Libya's prime minister, Shokri Ghanem, appeared to backtrack today over the country's admissions of responsibility for the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and the Lockerbie bombing.

In a switch from the more concilatory tone of the country's foreign minister earlier this month, Dr Ghanem said that the police officer's death was now "settled" and that Libya had paid compensation to the Lockerbie relatives to "buy peace" and an end to sanctions. "We thought it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed to compensation," he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Last year, Libya had finally concluded a two-decade battle for compensation and justice for the victims of the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing, in which almost 300 people were murdered. Libya turned over two agents that had been implicated in the terrorist attack and agreed to pay billions of dollars in compensation to the families of the victims. In another case, a British citizen protesting outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984 was killed by a gunman believed to have fired from within the embassy itself. In 1999, Libya accepted responsibility for the murder, paid compensation and agreed to pursue the investigation.

Now, however, the Libyans seem content to have paid out the money and expect that the British would be satisfied as well. Perhaps, if Gaddafi actually gets rid of his WMDs and cooperates fully in the war on terror, the British may consider it unpleasant but overall a positive outcome. But it will be hard to trust that Libya, absent the strong pressure that the Anglo-American coalition has provided through its action in Iraq and Afghanistan, will stay that particular course. It's another good reason that American policy on terror has to remain focused on it being a war rather than a law-enforcement problem. Otherwise we will hear from Dr. Ghanem tell us that paying off Lockerbie victims was a great bargain compared to the boon of lifting the sanctions, and we shouldn't worry about their continued trade with Middle Eastern "freedom fighters".

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 24, 2004 6:12 AM

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