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Libyan Lockerbie Pledge Welcomed

March 24, 1999

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The U.N. Security Council said Tuesday it welcomed Libyan pledges to deliver the two suspects accused of blowing up a Pan Am jet in 1988 for trial before April 6.

The 15-member council repeated its intention to suspend sanctions once the two arrive for trial in the Netherlands and to lift them entirely ``as soon as circumstances permit, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions.″

The council’s statement to the press was its first reaction since Libyan Foreign Minister Omar al-Muntasser wrote to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday saying the two suspects would be available to appear in court by April 6.

Annan was trying to pin down a firm date for the handover, said the deputy U.S. ambassador, Peter Burleigh, who met with Annan on Monday evening to discuss the new timeframe for a handover. He called the April 6 deadline, ``a positive development.″

The Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of the jet over Lockerbie, Scotland claimed 270 lives, most of them Americans. Two Libyans, believed to be intelligence agents, are suspected of having planted a bomb in a suitcase on board the plane.

Tripoli had long argued that the suspects couldn’t get a fair trial in Britain or the United States. The Security Council imposed sanctions in 1992 to force Libya to turn the men over.

Hoping to put an end to the case, the United States and Britain proposed in August that the two be tried by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.

South African President Nelson Mandela, who negotiated the deal, said the handover was unconditional.

``They will be delivered on or before April 6,″ he told reporters ``Collateral matters can be discussed separately, but the delivery is unconditional.″

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