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Libya Accuses U.S. And Britain Of Ignoring International Law

March 28, 1992

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Libya today accused Britain and the United States of relying on threats to obtain the surrender of two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

One lawyer for Libya said that despite his personal link to the tragedy - the death of his son’s best friend in the bombing - he could not condone U.S. tactics.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council was moving ahead on a resolution that would slap an air and weapons embargo against Libya to pressure for the release of the suspects wanted in the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

Libya has denied involvement and told the court it is unconvinced of the guilt of the suspects Washington claims are Libyan intelligence officials. Libya has sought emergency protection from the World Court, a U.N. body with much less power than the policy-making Security Council.

Libya opened the World Court hearing Thursday, and was followed by Britain and the United States. Rebuttal arguments began today before the court’s 16 black-robed judges.

Libya’s chief counsel, British lawyer Ian Brownlie, opened today’s hearing by saying that though international procedures existed, the United States and Britain were relying on coercion.

″This insistence on extralegal procedures has been and continues to be associated with a pattern of the use of threats of force,″ Brownlie said.

During the first two days of proceedings, both the United States and Britain denied any threat of force.

Brownlie, as he did on the opening day of the hearings, also raised the 1986 U.S. air raids on Libya in retaliation for terror bombings in Western Europe.

″The victims of the 1986 air raid did not have the benefit of the doubt,″ he said.

Jean Salmon, a Belgian lawyer for Libya, said his son’s best friend was killed in the Flight 103 bombing, so he had a personal interest in seeing justice done.

″My difference with (the United States and Britain) is that I consider that the issue should be dealt with full respect for international law,″ Salmon said.

Salmon also said fear of what action the West might take explained Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s contradictory signals on whether he was prepared to hand over the suspects.

″Peace of mind can hardly be expected from a rabbit facing the hunter’s rifle,″ Salmon said.

Gadhafi had offered to surrender the suspects to the Arab League, but later balked.

Washington and London rejected Libya’s efforts at the court.

″Let there be no mistake, this request (for an emergency World Court ruling) is aimed directly at the Security Council,″ State Department Legal Advisor Edwin D. Williamson told reporters Friday.

U.S. officials used Friday’s court session to accuse Libya of a long history of terrorist activities.

Also sought by the West are four other Libyan suspects in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger in which 171 people died.

The World Court is expected to rule within three weeks. The World Court, formally titled the International Court of Justice, is the judicial arm of the United Nations, but it has no enforcement powers.

The sanctions resolution has overwhelming support on the 15-member Security Council. But one permanent member, Chinese Ambassador Li Daoyu, told reporters Friday he did not have guidance from his government and declined to say how he would vote. Diplomats said China was unhappy with the sanctions but unlikely to veto.

The New York Times reported today that the United States, Britain and France had warned China that it risked losing preferential American trade status if it vetoed the sanctions.

China today would neither confirm nor deny the report.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press late Friday that China had not been threatened.

Update hourly