News and Views

March 1998

30 March 1998: A Libyan plane carrying 105 Libyan bound for Mecca arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a Libyan source said. Flights from Libya are banned since 1992 as part of U.N. sanctions after the Lockerbie aircraft bombing. Libya has had special permission from the U.N. sanctions committee since 1995 to fly its pilgrims to Mecca aboard Egypt Air airliners. But Tripoli-based diplomats said the Libyan government this year renounced the Egypt Air deal and decided to transport its 10,000 or so pilgrims by ship. [Reuters]
29 March 1998: South African President Nelson Mandela lectured U.S. President Clinton on Friday to "set an example to all of us" and make peace with adversaries in Iran, Libya and Cuba. The two leaders discussed their policies toward Iran, Libya and Cuba but did not agree, U.S. officials said. Urging Clinton to take the first steps toward reconciliation, Mandela made the point that he has forgiven the former South African government that "slaughtered our people, massacred them like flies." The United States, as the willful leader of the world, should set an example to all of us," Mandela said. "One of the best ways of doing so is to call upon its enemies to say, 'Let's sit down and talk peace." [AP]
29 March 1998: The Organization of African Unity (OAU) has expressed concern at the impasse between Libya, the United States and Britain over the Lockerbie dispute and called on the United Nations Security Council to speedily find a solution to the crisis. In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Abdoulie Momodou Sallah, Zimbabwean foreign minister and chairman of the OAU committee on the Lockerbie issue, Stan Mudenge, said the council should lift the sanctions imposed on Libya. [PANA]
29 March 1998: Libya has reduced its oil production by 80,000 barrels per day, according to a statement released by the Libyan ministry of energy. The decision follows an agreement concluded in Riyadh to cut oil production in order to stop the free fall of prices on the world oil market, according to the statement made available to PANA in Tripoli. Libya currently produces some 1.4 million barrels per day. According to Libyan television, 11 OPEC and non-OPEC oil producing countries signed the Riyadh agreement, initiated by Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela. [PANA]
29 March 1998: Libya is sending 33 million litres of petrol to Chad, whose economy has been paralysed since the start of this year by a shortage of fuel, Chad's minister for public works and transport said on Saturday. Ahmad Lamine told a news conference the imports represented three months consumption. It was no immediately clear on what terms the fuel was being provided. "Chad has been completely paralysed by a shortage of fuel since the beginning of the year and is prepared to go and search for fuel anywhere in the world to ensure the functioning of its socio-economic activities,'' Lamine said. [Reuters]

25 March 1998: The Corinthia Hotels Group of Malta on Tuesday denied a U.S. State Department claim that its hotels were owned or controlled by the government of Libya, insisting that its shareholders were mostly Maltese and the group was Maltese-controlled. The State Department warned American citizens on Monday that staying in Czech hotels owned by the Corinthia Group could violate U.S. laws banning trade with Libya. A Corinthia Group spokesman said a Libyan company held only a minority stake in the group and Libya did not have effective control. [Reuters]
25 March 1998: The United States warned its citizens that staying in Czech hotels owned by the Malta-based Corinthia Group could violate U.S. laws banning trade with Libya. "They should treat the (Hotel) Forum and other establishments ... as properties owned and/or controlled by the Government of Libya,'' an advisory issued by the U.S. embassy in Prague said. "Financial transactions with those establishments, including payment for lodging and meals, are prohibited by the (U.S.) Libyan Sanctions Regulations,'' it said. [Reuters]
25 March 1998: A Libyan court has started the trial in absentia of eight former U.S. officials for the 1986 bombing of the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, state-run Libyan television said. The television on Tuesday night showed the start of the Tripoli court's session with the listing of the eight, who included John Poindexter, former National Security Adviser and Oliver North, former member of the National Security Council. The court's president Muftah Daechi said the eight men were charged with "intentional murder.'' He said the trial was at the demand of the families of the victims of the 1986 bombing. [Reuters]
21 March 1998: An Egyptian court has dismissed a lawsuit demanding an investigation into the disappearance of a senior Libyan dissident, Mansour al-Kikhia [pictured,] who was last seen at his Cairo hotel in 1993. The suit was filed by the dissident's wife who alleged that the inquiry by the Egyptian Interior Ministry into her husband's disappearance had been incomplete. However, the court said there was no evidence that the inquiry had not been thorough enough. The Washington Post newspaper last year quoted a CIA report as saying that Egyptian agents abducted Mr Kikhia and handed him over to Libya, where he was allegedly murdered. Egypt has denied any role in his disappearance. [BBC]
21 March 1998: After delegates first stood in a minute of silent respect for the 270 victims of the 1988 Pan Am jetliner bombing, the Security Council plunged into a contentious debate Friday about whether to maintain sanctions against Libya for refusing to turn over two suspects in the case for trial. For the United States, Britain and those countries that supported their position, the issue is the involvement of Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in international terrorism and his maneuvering to avoid a trial that would turn the spotlight of world attention on these activities. But Libya and other governments argued that the big powers are trying, as Libyan Foreign Minister Omar al-Muntasser [pictured] put it, to use the Libyan people as pawns to punish Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. [Washington Post]
21 March 1998: Libya has received wide-spread support, mainly from developing countries, in its quest to have the Lockerbie bombing trial held in any country other than the United States or Britain. But sanctions imposed on Tripoli for its refusal to surrender two suspects in the 1988 mid-air bombing are expected to remain for the foreseeable future. Among the 15 U.N. Security Council members, only Bahrain advocated their immediate suspension during a marathon debate on Friday. [Reuters]
21 March 1998: Holding pictures of their dead children, American families of those killed in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, said they, not Libya's leaders, were the real victims. They spoke in favor of keeping sanctions on Libya before filing into the U.N. Security Council to hear a debate organized by Libya and its Arab and African backers in an effort to get U.N. embargoes lifted. Sanctions were imposed in 1992 because of Libya's refusal to extradite two suspects indicted for the bombing. [L.A. Times]
17 March 1998: The first group of Libyan pilgrims making the annual haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca left the port of Tripoli on Sunday aboard a Libyan passenger ship. Libyan television on Monday carried details of haj schedules from the Libyan ports of Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata and Derna. [Reuters]
16 March 1998: Tripoli International Exhibition [Ma'rad Tarablus al-Dawly,] opened last week in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and will stay open for the next 20 days.
16 March 1998: Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky held talks with Libyan officials on bilateral relations, Libyan state-run television reported on Sunday. It was the Russian Liberal Democratic Party leader's fourth visit to Libya since January 1997. Zhirinovsky and his delegation arrived in Tripoli on Saturday and met officials from the Libyan General People's Congress (parliament) and the foreign affairs ministry, according to Libyan television, monitored in Tunis. [Reuters]
16 March 1998: Arab states agreed to launch concentrated efforts until 20 March to formulate an Arab resolution to be presented to the UN Security Council in its special session to discuss the status of sanctions imposed on Libya after the judgment of the International Court of Justice regarding the Lockerbie issue. The Arab sevenfold committee, in which Bahrain's foreign minister will also participate, will meet on the sidelines of a meeting of Islamic countries' foreign ministers on 15-19 March. Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdul Meguid, who will also be in attendance, said the meeting will focus on continuing all the necessary arrangements to create a well-supported Arab position through the UN Security Council member states. [Arabic News]

12 March 1998: Malta-based Corinthia Hotels International said on Tuesday it is to build a $9 million hotel in the centre of the Libyan capital Tripoli in just over two years. Group chairman Alfred Pisani said the 300-room, five-star hotel will include a shopping mall, theme restaurants, a health centre, offices and a convention centre. The hotel will be built by Maltese workers on a 38,000 square metre site. [Reuters]
12 March 1998: The minutes of meeting on security cooperation were signed on Friday between Libya and Algeria by the Libyan secretary of security affairs and the Algerian minister of the Interior, currently visiting Libya. The meeting's minutes pledged support to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in various security fields. [Arabic News]

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8 March 1998: An attorney representing the families of four killed in the 1988 midair bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, said on Friday that victims' families can now sue Libya for damages. Attorney Aaron Broder said a ruling last week by U.S. federal Judge Thomas Platt paves the way for survivors of the 189 Americans killed in the bombing to sue Libya for millions of dollars in punitive damages. Ruling in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Platt last week denied a motion by Libya that as a sovereign nation it could not be sued by U.S. citizens. [Reuters]
7 March 1998: Franco Bernabe, managing director of Italian energy group ENI said in a newspaper interview on Friday that he saw positive developments in Iraq, Iran and Libya, leading to a possible shift in the world order. "For the first time in very many years, the three countries that have been isolated by the international community, I am talking about Iran, Iraq and Libya, are on the move again,'' Bernabe told Milan newspaper. Libya supplies the bulk of Italy's crude oil imports ahead of Saudia Arabia and Iran. [Reuters]
7 March 1998: The United Nations Security Council on Friday retained unchanged sanctions imposed on Libya since 1992 for failing to hand over two suspects in the 1988 mid-air bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, council members said. But, at the request of Arab and African countries, council members agreed during private consultations earlier this week to hold a full-scale debate on 20 March on the Libya sanctions in light of a recent World Court decision. [Reuters]
7 March 1998: Members of the a Brazilian delegation currently visiting Libya, including representatives of several Brazilian parties expressed satisfaction over the ruling of the International Court of Justice concerning the question of Lockerbie. The court decided that it has jurisdiction to rule on a Libyan complaint involving the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland. The delegates said this decision will refute all claims raised by Britain and the US in imposing repressive measures on Libya. [Arabic News]
6 March 1998: Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi said Libya wanted U.S. oil firms to return [to Libya] to explore and invest in the energy sector. U.S. oil companies withdrew from OPEC member Libya in 1986 following economic sanctions imposed by the United States in retaliation for alleged Libyan support of terrorism. Libya denies those charges. "The American companies are welcome to work with us in Libya to explore and invest in the petroleum sector (so that) we take advantage of their equipment and expertise,'' al-Qadhafi said in a speech on Monday night broadcast by Libyan television. [Reuter]
6 March 1998: Some United Nations Security Council members are seeking to postpone a periodic review of sanctions against Libya, due on Friday, to enable a full debate on the issues in light of a recent World Court ruling, a council source said on Wednesday. The debate has been requested by a seven-member committee of the Arab group, which follows the Libya case, in a letter to council president Abdoulie Momodou Sallah of Gambia, the source said. The council reviews the sanctions behind closed doors every 120 days but they have so far remained unchanged. [Reuter]
3 March 1998: An Arab human rights group said on Sunday it would appeal to the United Nations to press Egypt to reopen the case of a Libyan dissident who disappeared in Cairo and was later reported executed in Libya. Mohammad Fayek, secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab Organisation for Human Rights, told Reuters he would ask the U.N. Commission on Human Rights this month for help to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of Mansour al-Kikhia. [Reuter]
1 March 1998: A Cairo court on Saturday postponed a compensation decision in the case of a Libyan dissident's reported abduction in Cairo and execution in Libya after Egyptian agents turned him over. The South Cairo Court judges said they postponed until 14 March any decision in the case of Mansour al-Kikhia, brought by his wife Baha al-Emary. Al-Emary's lawyer Adel Amin told Reuters that the court had postponed the hearing after the government's lawyer requested proof al-Emary was al-Kikhia's wife. Al-Kikhia, a former Libyan foreign minister and head of a Libyan opposition alliance, disappeared while attending a human rights conference in Cairo in December 1993, a day before Libya vowed to crush Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's opponents. [Reuter]
1 March 1998: The lawyer of the two Libyan suspects wanted in the Lockerbie bombing said Saturday he still backed a trial in a neutral country even though a ruling by the International Court of Justice was a step toward confirming Libya's jurisdiction. "It is a ruling in the right direction...and I am almost certain that the final ruling will be in line with the 1971 Montreal convention which means that Libya's judiciary is competent to hear the case and is right to refuse to hand over the suspects,'' Ibrahim Legwell, lawyer of the two suspects, told Reuters by telephone from Tripoli. "It is our interest and that of the families of the bombing victims that there be a trial.'' he said [Reuter]
1 March 1998: The head of the Arab League on Saturday welcomed the International Court of Justice decision that it had jurisdiction in Libya's dispute with Britain and the United States over a 1988 airliner bombing. "This declaration from the court affirms the sound Arab position that calls for the trial to be in a neutral country,'' said a statement by Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid. Separately, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told reporters that the procedural move was an "important step.'' [Reuter]
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