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Libyan Lockerbie Stance Pleases US

March 22, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department took encouragement Monday from Libya’s announcement of a date by which it promises to turn over two suspects wanted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103.

While saying it would be imprudent to be optimistic, spokesman James Foley acknowledged that the Libyans had never before targeted a date for surrendering the suspects.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told South African President Nelson Mandela last week that suspects Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, who the United States says are Libyan intelligence agents, will be transferred by April 6.

``Precisely what we’re looking for is the hand-over of the suspects on or before April 6,″ Foley said.

The trial of the two suspects would be held before a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands. The bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, claimed 270 lives, mostly Americans, and if convicted the suspects would be jailed in Scotland under U.N. supervision.

Meanwhile, a Libyan court told state prosecutors Monday to speed up efforts to arrest Oliver North and eight other Americans whom Libya wants to prosecute for the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi.

Former President Reagan ordered the attacks to retaliate for the bombing of a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman died.

Libyan prosecutors ordered the arrests last December of the nine American officials, including North, a former Marine lieutenant colonel; the late CIA director William Casey; and John Poindexter, former national security adviser.

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