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Court To Rule on Lockerbie Dispute

February 27, 1998

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Families of the 270 people who were killed when their plane was blown up over the Scottish village of Lockerbie hope a ruling by the World Court today will hasten the trial of two Libyan suspects in the attack.

Nearly 10 years after a suitcase bomb destroyed Pan Am flight 103, the United Nations’ highest judicial body was announcing whether it has the authority to settle a dispute over where the suspects should be tried.

The United States and Britain both want to try the men, while Libya claims a 1971 convention gives it the right to carry out any trial. Authorities in Tripoli insist the men are innocent.

The North African nation also has applied to the court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, to lift U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing the suspects’ extradition.

The U.S. government argues that the World Court has no power to overturn a Security Council decision and should pull out of the case.

Whatever today’s ruling, it was unlikely to provide a quick resolution to the judicial deadlock.

``If they decide they do not have jurisdiction, it will be the latest slap in the face for our search for truth and justice,″ said Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was aboard the doomed flight.

``We hope that if the court decides it has jurisdiction, it will then examine from the point of view of international law whether the Security Council is exceeding its powers by contradicting an existing treaty,″ Swire said.

But if the court declares jurisdiction, it will likely set in motion a legal process that usually take years to reach a decision.

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