News and Views

April 1998

29 April 1998: Hundreds of stone-throwing youths clashed with paramilitary police in the Chadian capital N'Djamena on Tuesday during a demonstration against a planned visit by Libya's Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, witnesses said. Youths chanting "Qadhafi out of Chad'' stoned government vehicles and blocked off N'Djamena's main Mobutu Avenue, the focus of the march against Qadhafi's visit on Friday. A number of people were wounded, police said. [Reuters]
29 April 1998: The official Libyan news agency JANA said in Tripoli that Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi would lead Friday Moslem prayers in N'Djamena to be attended by a number of other African leaders. JANA said the N'Djamena prayers would be broadcast live worldwide. Officials in Chad named the other states as Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Sudan. They gave no further details of the gathering. [Reuters]
29 April 1998: Libanese agriculture minister Shawki Fakhoury yesterday began a three-day visit to Libya to boost economic cooperation. It is the first official visit to Libya since a trip by president Elias Hrawi in 1991. Arriving by road from Tunis, Fakhoury was greeted at the Mahari hotel by his Libyan counterpart, Mohammed Bin Ramadan, agricultural and industrial officials. [Daily Star]
27 April 1998: A Libyan national was injured when a bomb exploded in a mosque in San'a, Yemen. Ameen Ali al-Kebeer, a Libyan student, was one of 26 people injured in the explosion. Two people were reported killed. The bomb exploded in the Salafyeen Mosque during last Friday's prayer.
[al-Sharq al-Awsat]
27 April 1998: An Italian publisher on a humanitarian mission in Libya said on Sunday a Libyan official had promised that two Italians held in the country for seven months might be allowed to return home on Monday. Sardinian publisher Nicola Grauso said that the Secretary of the Foreign Affairs had given him this assurance concerning the couple, Italian technician Marcello Sarritzu and his wife, Isa. [Reuters]
25 April 1998: Libya said two Italian planes landed in Tripoli on Friday in breach of a United Nations embargo. The official Libyan news agency JANA said an Italian delegation led by a member of parliament was among the passengers. A Libyan official said it was the first time Europeans had breached the U.N. flight ban. The flight ban was part of sanctions imposed on Tripoli for failing to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial in connection with the bombing. "This is the first breaking by Europeans of the air blockade imposed on Libya,'' said a Libyan official contacted by Reuters by telephone from Tunis. [Reuters]
25 April 1998: In Rome, the Italian news agency ANSA said two small planes, carrying an Italian parliamentarian and a Sardinian publisher, left Cagliari in Sardinia on Friday bound for Tripoli. Italian MP [member of parliment] Vittorio Sgarbi and Sardinian publisher Nicola Grauso were aboard the planes which left for Libya, ANSA said. [Reuters]
25 April 1998: Italy's Foreign Ministry said on Friday it was not informed beforehand of plans for two small planes to fly to Libya in contravention of a United Nations embargo on flights there. The Foreign Ministry said it was told about the flights only after the planes had taken off. "This is a personal initiative. We were not informed beforehand," a ministry spokesman told Reuters. "We will be following what happens." [CNN]
25 April 1998: Libyan television showed an Italian group arriving in Tripoli from Sardinia in two small aircrafts. The group leader, a member of the Italian parliament, Vittorio Sgarbi, is said to be trying to secure the release of an Italian technician and his wife detained in Libya. The Italian foreign ministry called the trip a personal initiative. [BBC]
23 April 1998: Libya has agreed to hand over two suspects from the 1988 bombing of a US airliner for trial by a Scottish judge, according to a spokesman for the British victims of the disaster. Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed by wreckage from the explosion, said Libya's government, lawyers, and Col Qadhafi, have agreed to allow the pair to be tried in a neutral country, by a panel chaired by a Scottish judge. Dr Swire met Col Qadhafi on Monday as part of his mission to try to break the diplomatic deadlock over the trial of the two men accused of the attack. US and British authorities have previously rejected the proposal. [BBC]
22 April 1998: A Cairo court has set a date for the appeal of an American woman seeking compensation after her Libyan dissident husband disappeared in Egypt and was later reported to have been returned to Libya where he was executed. Adel Amin said on Tuesday the High Court would on 14 June start hearing the appeal of the case brought by his client, Baha al-Emary, to look into Mansour al-Kikhia's disappearance in 1993. Al-Kikhia [pictured, left,] a former Libyan foreign minister and head of a Libyan opposition alliance, disappeared while attending a human rights conference in Cairo in December 1993. He was last seen walking off from his Cairo hotel with a Libyan man, Youssef Najem [pictured right,] a day before Libya vowed to crush Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's opponents. [Reuters]
22 April 1998: The Libyan lawyer for two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing said Tuesday he had reached agreement with a lawyer for victims' families on a proposed trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. Ibrahim Legwell said he told Scottish lawyer Robert Black and Jim Swire, who represents British families of victims of the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people died, that his two Libyan clients were ready to stand trial under Scottish law in a neutral country. Black and Swire held talks in Tripoli this week with Legwell and Libyan foreign affairs and justice officials. They also met Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi in a bid to gain support for a trial plan formulated by Black. [Reuters]
22 April 1998: American families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing on Tuesday denounced a reported agreement to have two Libyan suspects tried in the Netherlands. The Americans' attorney said Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed on the plane and who negotiated with Libya on behalf of some British families of victims, had no authority to make such an agreement. [Reuters]
22 April 1998: Malta will back efforts to include Libya in the Mediterranean Forum, a grouping of foreign ministers from Europe and North Africa, Prime Minister Alfred Sant has told a newspaper. European members oppose Libya's participation until it complies with United Nations demands to extradite two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. [Reuters]

20 April 1998: Libyan Secretary of Justice, Mohammad Aboulkasem, met with Dr. Jim Swire, the official spokesman of Lockerbie British victims, and Mr. Robert Black, a Scottish law professor. The two sides discussed some ideas suggested by Swire and Black concerning reaching a fair trial for the two Libyan suspects in a neutral country. [NCID]
19 April 1998: Representatives of victims of a 1988 Pan Am jetliner bombing arrived in Libya on Saturday for talks on a compromise plan to bring two Libyan suspects in the attack to trial. James Swire, who represents families of Britons killed when Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, and legal adviser Robert Black flew from London to Jerba, Tunisia, where they were met by representatives of the Libyan government. They then traveled by road the 215 miles to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Swire's spokesman, David Ben-Ariyeh, said in London. He said the two expected to meet Sunday with Libyan officials to discuss the compromise plan. [Reuters]

17 April 1998: A United Nations committee agreed on Thursday that Libya violated sanctions by flying 105 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia aboard a Libyan airliner on 29 March, committee sources said. The committee also authorized its chairman, ambassador Danilo Turk of Slovenia, to send a letter to Libya's U.N. mission about the violation. [Reuters]
17 April 1998: After a last-minute change of plan the father of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing is to go to Libya on Saturday in a fresh bid to break the deadlock over where the two Libyans accused of planting the bomb should be tried. The move follows the success of talks between the spokesman for the British Lockerbie relatives, Dr Jim Swire, and intermediaries from the Arab League in Egypt on Wednesday. [BBC]
17 April 1998: The human rights group Amnesty International, based in London, said on Thursday that prisoners of conscience in the Middle East and North Africa are languishing in prisons or awaiting execution on false convictions after unfair trials. It said that in Libya and Saudi Arabia, hundreds of people were arbitrarily arrested years ago and still held without trial. In Libya such cases have extended to at least 15 years. [Reuters]
16 April 1998: A Scottish lawyer said on Wednesday his latest proposal to end a dispute between Libya, Britain and the United States over the trial of two Libyan suspects in a 1988 airliner bombing would be his last. Robert Black, in Cairo with Jim Swire, who represents some 30 British families of victims of the Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, told a news conference he was "51 percent sure'' the Libyans would accept the modified proposal. He would not give details, but Black and Swire are suggesting the suspects be tried under Scottish law in a neutral venue by an international panel of judges, without a jury. [Reuters]
16 April 1998: A Berlin court said on Wednesday it would request help from Libya in its investigation into the bombing of a West Berlin night club 12 years ago which killed three people and wounded hundreds. Current indications led the court to believe aid was likely to be granted, Berlin justice authority spokesman Matthias Rebentisch said. Prosecutors allege Libyan authorities were behind the April 1986 attack on the La Belle night club, which sparked a reprisal bombing of Libya by the U.S. [Reuters]
16 April 1998: Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore on Wednesday ended a four-day visit to Libya during which he held talks with Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. The official Libyan news agency JANA reported that the two countries signed an accord during the visit on cooperation to boost bilateral ties and investment, particularly in the communications and transport sectors. [Reuters]
16 April 1998: Families of the victims who died in the 1988 Pan Am bombing urged Britain and the United States on Wednesday to accept a proposal aimed at bringing two Libyan suspects to trial. But Robert Black, a legal expert advising the victims' families, said there was little hope the United States would accept the proposal, although international pressure succeed in winning Britain's support. ``One simply has to give up on the American government,'' Black said. [Washington Post]
15 April 1998: The Sudanese government has agreed to a treaty providing for the joining of coastal and desert states signed in Tripoli, Libya last February. The treaty, which comprises Sudan, Libya, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso aims at establishing an economic federation according to an investment development strategy in the fields of agriculture, industry, and energy and facilitating the movement of people, capital and commodities between the signatory countries. [Arabic News]
15 April 1998: The father of one of the British victims of the Lockerbie bombing victims is to meet members of the Arab League in Cairo. Dr Jim Swire hopes to discuss the deadlock over where to hold the trial of the two Libyans suspected of bombing the plane. His daughter Flora was among 270 people killed when a bomb blew up Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie in December 1988. He will be joined by Robert Black, a professor of Scottish law at Edinburgh University, who has proposed the two Libyans should be tried in a neutral country under Scottish law. [BBC]
12 April 1998: German immigration authorities allowed Libyan embassy representatives to question two Libyan nationals who asked Germany for political asylum when they arrived at Frankfort airport coming from Tunis. The two Libyans said that the Germans told them that the embassy employees were translators, but they were told at the end of their questioning that they had to go back to Tunis where according to the Libyan embassy employees they will be handed to Libya. [Asharq al-Awsat]
11 April 1998: The Arab group, under chairmanship of Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri during the meeting of the council of International Parliamentary Union in Namibia, agreed on presenting the project drawn up by Libya to lift the UN economic sanctions after the judgment of the International Court of Justice. [Arabic News]
11 April 1998: Libya has signalled it may help Germany solve the grisly bombing of a West Berlin nightclub which killed three people 12 years ago, German magazines reported on Friday. Der Spiegel and Focus news magazines said German justice officials, who believe the Libyan authorities were behind the 1986 attack on La Belle nightclub, were preparing a formal request for Libyan help. The reports, which were released ahead of publication on Saturday, said envoys acting on behalf of Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi had signalled his willingness to help solve the crime to officials from the German Foreign Ministry. [Reuter]
10 April 1998: Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi has issued a resolution releasing 44 Egyptian fishermen who recently entered Libyan regional waters in three fishing boats. The three Egyptian fishing ships with 51 fishermen on board disappeared near the Libyan coast during a fishing trip in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. [Arabic News]
7 April 1998: Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Libyan students day of 7 April 1976, when many students in the University of Tripoli and the University of Benghazi, following Col Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's call for cleansing the schools from anti-revolution elements, were arrested after a fight with pro-government elements which answered al-Qadhafi's call and attacked the universities and established the Revolutionary Committees which took control of the two universities. More details.
6 April 1998: Seventeen Egyptian fishermen were feared dead after their boat sank amid a storm off Libya, the fishermen's union said Saturday. The Amir Abdel-Razek was trying to reach the Libyan coast amid high waves west of the Egyptian border when it sank, the union said. A nearby fishing vessel saw the Amir as it went down, but could not reach the vessel due to the storm, the union said. None of the Amir's men was seen abandoning the ship, and the men have not been heard from since the accident. The vessel sank on Thursday but the union first released news of the accident on Saturday. [AP]

5 April 1998: Libya's international cooperation and foreign relations committee has asserted that losses inflicted on its industry and mineral sectors have reached US $5 billion since UN sanctions were imposed on Libya in 1992. In an official report, the committee said production lines came to a halt in many factories due to shortages in necessary raw materials, adding that production costs increased and several factories in Libya stopped production because of the difficulty to get letters of credit from foreign banks. The report indicated that the Libyan companies were obliged to import needed supplies through a third partner, a matter which led to a 15% increase in commodity prices. [Arabic News]

3 April 1998: The International Court of Justice has given the United States and Britain till 30 December to file counter memorials in the cases brought against them by Libya concerning the 1988 air disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland. The court said it made its ruling last Monday. The decision came about a month after the court had handed down two judgements declaring it had jurisdiction to deal with the merits of the disputes between Libya, and Britain and the United States. In that decision, the court also said it found admissible Libyan claims concerning the case. Libya had gone to the court in March 1992 arguing that it had no obligation to surrender its two nationals accused of causing the air disaster to be tried in Britain or the United States. [Pan African News Agency]
3 April 1998: Libya's U.N. mission has told families of victims of Pan Am 103 that the United States and Britain are all that stand in the way of determining who blew up the plane over Scotland nine years ago. In letters to the victims' families, the Libyans cited last month's Security Council debate, in which Arab and African nations urged the council to accept Libya's offer to try two Libyan suspects in a neutral country. Washington and London insist they be tried either in the United States or Scotland. [AP]
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