News and Views [ January 1999 ]

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Sunday: 31 January, 1999: A Nigerian aircraft carrying senior officials has flown to Libya despite a United Nations air ban on Libya, Libyan state-run television said on Saturday. The television, monitored in Tunis, said the flight was in line with an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) resolution last year to allow flights to Libya for humanitarian, religious or diplomatic missions. The delegation included Nigerian Police Inspector-General Ibrahim Coomassie and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Buhari Bala, the television said. The television showed pictures of the delegation holding talks with Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Omar Mustafa al-Montasser. [Reuters]

Friday: 29 January, 1999: Libya said on Thursday it was not to blame for the delay in trying two suspects for the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing, arguing it was up to ``other parties'' to make the next move. ``It (Libya) is still awaiting the response of other parties on the remaining points to guarantee the appropriate circumstances for justice for the two suspects,'' the Libyan foreign ministry said in comments published by the official news agency JANA. ``While (expressing) Libya's respect for the United Nations secretary-general's efforts to find a solution to the so-called Lockerbie issue, it (Libya) would like to recall that Libya has shown the necessary flexibility in recent years despite the unjust sanctions imposed on it,'' JANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying. [Reuters]
Thursday: 28 January, 1999: United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Wednesday expressed impatience about recent efforts to get Libya to extradite suspects in the bombing of an airliner over Scotland in 1988. A senior U.S. official told reporters travelling with Albright after her talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: ``We expressed our impatience on Lockerbie.'' The official said they urged Egypt to tell the Libyans ``to accept our proposal to get out from under the sanctions regime. They (Egypt) said they intended to try to persuade the Libyans to do this.'' [Reuters]
Wednesday: 27 January, 1999: Libya has stopped importing French products due to political tensions between Tripoli and Paris, but staple foods seem to have escaped the unannounced ban, analysts and diplomats said on Tuesday. Tripoli, apparently angered at not being invited to a Franco- African Summit in Paris last November, decided that same month to limit deliveries of French goods, they said. But staple foods such as flour, sugar or animal feed apparently escaped the ban and major French exporters said they were shipping their goods without interruption. France ranks fifth among Libya's world commercial partners, with sales of around two billion francs in 1997. [Reuters]
Tuesday: 26 January, 1999: A Palestinian guerrilla group linked to a global campaign of bombings and assassinations accused Libya of arresting several of its members in the summer, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper reported on Monday. Asharq al-Awsat quoted a statement attributed to Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council, in which the group appealed to Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi to intervene to free the detainees and ``to hand over funds deposited with Libyan authorities.'' ``The arrests campaign took place last August and involved a number of cadres in Libya,'' Ashaq al-Awsat quoted the statement as saying. A number of Palestinian families were also ``taken into custody.'' [Reuters]
Bashir Mohammed AttarabulsiSaturday: 23 January, 1999: The International Olympic Committee delegate from Libya resigned Friday, the second member of the governing body to step down in the wake of Salt Lake City bribery scandal. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch told The Associated Press that Bashir Mohammed Attarabulsi [pictured] submitted his resignation in person Friday morning. The resignation came one day before a special IOC commission meets to conclude its inquiry into the Olympics' biggest corruption scandal. Samaranch said Attarabulsi, 61, an IOC member since 1977, stepped down because of revelations that his son received college scholarships at Utah schools from Salt Lake City boosters.
"I accepted his resignation and I thanked him for his 22 years as a member of the IOC, what he did for sport in his country and for us," Samaranch said in a telephone interview. "He's a good man." [AP]
Saturday: 23 January, 1999: The Secretary General of the Cairo-based Arab League, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, received on Friday confirmation that Libya would participate in Sunday's Arab foreign ministers meeting on Iraq. League sources said Foreign Minister Omar al-Montasser would head the Libyan delegation in the talks that would be attended by another 20 foreign ministers, including Iraq's Mohammed al-Sahaf. [Reuters]
Thursday: 21 January, 1999: The South African mediator who visited Libya this month in an attempt to resolve the Lockerbie dispute says he is very optimistic that the Libyan Government will hand over two suspected bombers within weeks. Professor Jakes Gerwel, a close aide to President Nelson Mandela, said he returned from his latest mission to Libya with a feeling of optimism. He said that only a few fine details now had to be worked out before Libya agreed to hand over the two men suspected of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. In an interview for BBC Radio Scotland, Professor Gerwel said Colonel Qadhafi was still unhappy about the prospect of the two suspects, if convicted, being detained in a Scottish prison. But despite this obstacle, he said he believes their hand over was imminent. [BBC]

Tuesday: 19 January, 1999: Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan left Rome in a private plane Saturday after two months waiting in vain for political asylum. Ocalan's destination was secret. Libya and four other countries are rumored as possibile destination. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters in Russia that secret services there were looking into allegations that Ocalan might have traveled via Moscow to Libya or South Africa - but haven't found any proof yet. [AP]
Friday: 15 January, 1999: The Libyan representative in the International Olympic Committee, Bashir Mohammed Attarabulsi, is among nine IOC members facing possible expulsion for "serious'' offenses in the Salt Lake City bribery scandal and four others face minor charges. Attarabulsi's son, Suhel, told the Deseret News of Salt Lake that he received tuition at Brigham Young University and other Utah schools, plus $700 a month for expenses, from both the Salt Lake bid and organizing committees. On his application to Brigham Young University, the address Suhel Attarabulsi listed was the Salt Lake Bid Committee offices. [AP]

Thursday: 14 January, 1999: Libya said Wednesday that talks with South African and Saudi envoys had allowed progress to be made toward resolving the Lockerbie affair and that consultations were continuing to overcome remaining obstacles. The official Libyan news agency JANA, monitored in Tunis, said that Jakes Gerwel and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who met Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi Tuesday in Libya had held ''important and expanded talks on the so-called Lockerbie issue.'' ``Important practical steps had been reached during these talks toward a solution to the issue and it had been confirmed that all parties had good intentions toward each other in order to find a solution through cooperation between these parties,'' the agency quoted a Libyan Foreign Affairs Ministry as saying. ``Consultations and efforts are still continuing in order to overcome remaining obstacles,'' it added. It did not elaborate. [Reuters]
Thursday: 14 January, 1999: A Saudi envoy who has held talks in Tripoli with Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in an effort to break the deadlock in the Lockerbie affair has said he has hopes of finding a solution to the protracted problem. ``The Libyan leadership understands the changes that have taken place on this matter,'' the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted the envoy, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, as saying in its Wednesday edition. Prince Bandar and South Africa's Jakes Gerwel met Gaddafi on Tuesday on a U.N. mission to try to persuade him to extradite two Libyan suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. [Reuters]
Thursday: 14 January, 1999: British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made a direct appeal to Libya on Wednesday to surrender the two men accused of the Lockerbie bombing and he reiterated that U.N. sanctions would be suspended in return. ``I want ... to make a public appeal to the Libyan government to hand over the two suspects to enable proceedings to begin. We want to see justice done,'' Cook told reporters during a trip to The Hague, where he met officials of the U.N. war crimes court. Cook assured Libya the trial would be fair, saying Britain had ``no hidden agenda'' and no interest in convicting the innocent: ``If the two suspects are innocent they need have no fear of standing trial in this court,'' he said. [Reuters]
Wednesday: 13 January, 1999: President Nelson Mandela's envoy to Libya on Tuesday played down hopes that a fresh United Nations initiative could immediately solve diplomatic stalemate over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. ``This trip of ours is not make or break...We are not going to Tripoli to sign off on the deal,'' Jakes Gerwel told South African public radio. He was speaking from London a few hours before he and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's envoy to Washington, were due to fly to Libya. Gerwel separately told a Saudi newspaper that he was optimistic that the logjam could be broken, describing the process as being ``in its final stages.'' [Reuters]
Wednesday: 13 January, 1999: British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook will on Wednesday visit the Netherlands site chosen for the trial of two Libyans accused of blowing up a jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Cook will also visit the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and will hold talks with Dutch Foreign Minister Josias van Aartsen, the Foreign Office said. The Netherlands has agreed to cede a portion of its territory -- Camp Zeist -- to the Scottish court for the duration of any trial. [Reuters]

Tuesday: 12 January, 1999: French company Elf Aquitaine has made a new oil discovery offshore Libya, the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) reported on Monday. It said the B3 discovery well in Block NC137, which runs along the border with Tunisia, tested at a rate of 3,600 barrels per day (bpd) of 32 degree API crude oil. Reserves are estimated at around 100-150 million barrels. First production is scheduled for end-2000 or early 2001, MEES said. The Cyprus-based newsletter added that the B3 is the first well to have been drilled by Elf since its return to Libya in 1996 after its operations were suspended in 1984. [Reuters]
Tuesday: 12 January, 1999: A top aide to South African President Nelson Mandela has flown to Tripoli for talks with Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi to negotiate the surrender of two Libyan suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Jakes Gerwel, Director-General of Mr Mandela's office, left Johannesburg for Libya, but officials have declined to give further information about the visit. President Mandela announced the trip after talks with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Pretoria last Thursday. [BBC]
Tuesday: 12 January, 1999: The Libya-Nigeria joint commission of cooperation ended its second session Sunday in Tripoli with the signing of an agreement in the economic, cultural, youth and sports, communication and education sectors. The agreement was signed by the Libyan Secretary (minister) of Energy, Abdallah al-Badri, and the Nigerian Foreign Minister, Bukhari Bala. [PANA]

Sunday: 10 January, 1999: The United Nations announced on Friday that Saudi Arabian and South African envoys will spend two days in Libya next week in another attempt to persuade Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi to surrender suspects in the 1988 of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the envoys, Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, his country's ambassador to Washington, and Jakes Gerwel, South African President Nelson Mandela's chief of staff, would leave for Libya from London on Tuesday. Their visit is considered key following talks in Pretoria between Mandela and British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this week. [Reuters]
Sunday: 10 January, 1999: The second session of the Libyan-Nigerian joint cooperation commission opened Thursday in Tripoli to discuss bilateral issues and means to strength the commission in all areas of cooperation. After the session opened, three sub-committees on economic and finance, technical and legal issues were set up to take stock of the cooperation commission and develop a common strategy to make it more effective. The Nigerian delegation was led by Foreign Minister Buhari Balla, while Energy Minister Abdallah Al Badri led the Libyans. [PANA]
Friday: 8 January, 1999: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and South African President Nelson Mandela on Thursday said they had made progress in trying to persuade Libya to surrender two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing. After talks the two leaders said a senior South African official and the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, would travel shortly to Libya to brief Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. ``We have had discussions, we have made good progress and we think are on the way to resolving all the outstanding issues,'' Mandela said. He declined to add further comment.
Friday: 8 January, 1999: Libya warned Seoul on Thursday that South Korean companies operating in Libya might be expelled if it did not back away from supporting U.S. attacks on Iraq, Libya's official news agency JANA reported. ``The South Korean government...was quick in supporting the United States and Britain in their wrong aggression against the Iraqi people,'' JANA, received in Tunis, quoted its international affairs editor as saying. ``South Korea...must know that its companies operating in the Arab states would be expelled in case it does not change its stand backing and supporting the aggressive American policy against the Arab Nation,'' it added. [Reuters]
Thursday: 7 January, 1999: Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, is considering visiting Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in an effort to persuade him to surrender two suspects accused of the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, diplomats said on Tuesday. Bin Sultan last week had asked the Security Council's sanctions committee for permission to fly to Tripoli on January 5 but the United States and Britain put a hold on the request. The diplomats said Washington and London wanted clarifications as they were unaware of the visit in connection with the bombing of the Lockerbie affair. The prince then decided not to go to Tripoli immediately but the diplomats said he planned to reschedule the visit. [Reuters]
Tuesday: 5 January, 1999: Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky met Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi and renewed his support for Libya in its stand in the Lockerbie bombing affair, Libyan state radio said on Monday. The radio, monitored in Tunis, said Zhirinovsky backed Tripoli in its fight against what it called ``imperialism, Zionism, and in its fair stand in the Lockerbie affair.'' Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, arrived in Libya on Saturday. [Reuters]
Monday: 4 January, 1999: British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview published on Sunday he would appeal to South African President Nelson Mandela to persuade Libya to hand over two men suspected of the Lockerbie bombing for trial in the Netherlands. Blair, who starts a four day visit to South Africa on Tuesday, said negotiations between Britain, the United States and Libya over the 1988 airline bombing had reached an impasse. In the interview with the Sunday Business newspaper, he said Mandela had already played a ``unique and important'' role in trying to resolve the controversy and he would ask the South African leader to intervene again. ``I will explain that we have done all that we reasonably can to resolve the impasse over the trial. The UK-U.S. initiative for a trial in the Netherlands has been on the table for four months,'' said Blair. ``I will appeal to President Mandela to convince the Libyan government that a third country trial should now proceed,'' he added. [Reuters]
Saturday: 2 January, 1999: United States President Bill Clinton extended the nearly 13-year US state of emergency concerning Libya. In a letter he sent to the US Congress, Clinton stated, "The Government of Libya has continued its actions and policies in support of terrorism, despite the calls by the United Nations Security Council" in resolutions to demonstrate that it has renounced terrorism. "Such Libyan actions and policies pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and vital foreign policy interests of the United States," he said, noting that Libya has also refused to hand over the two Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie passenger jet bombing case, "even though the United States and United Kingdom accepted Libya's proposal to try the suspects in a Scottish court in a third country." The national emergency was declared on January 7, 1986 and the US administration blocked Libyan assets in the US the next day. The state of emergency must be renewed each year to remain in effect. []

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