Libya's foreign minister says a
dispute with the United States over Tripoli's responsibility for the bombing
of a U.S. airliner over Scotland in 1988 has now been cleared up.
The dispute over Libyan responsibility for the bombing of Pan American flight
103 arose again earlier this week, when Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem told
British radio that his government paid compensation to the families of the 270
victims of the attack in an effort to improve relations with the West, not because
Libya was responsible for the bombing.
That prompted the United States to demand a retraction of Mr. Ghanem's remarks
and to delay the easing of travel restrictions, which had been expected earlier.
The Libyan government on Wednesday issued a statement reaffirming its responsibility
for the actions of its officials, a reference to the fact that a Libyan intelligence
officer was found guilty of the bombing by a Scottish court, and is now jailed
But Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgam has restated twice this week that,
although Libya accepts responsibility for the acts of its officials, it does
not accept that, as a sovereign state, it was guilty of the bombing. Mr. Shalgam
says that is the Libyan position as outlined in a letter to the United Nations
Security Council last August that led to the lifting of U.N. sanctions against
Still, the reaffirmation of its responsibility for the action of its nationals
appears to have satisfied Washington. Secretary of State Colin Powell said
Wednesday that he is confident U.S. relations with Libya will quickly be restored,
and the United States lifted the travel ban on Thursday, which had been in
effect for 23 years.
For his part, Mr. Shalgam told reporters in Sirte, where he is attending
an African Union foreign ministers' meeting, that the Lockerbie file is now
"Everything is normalized now. Everything is OK," he said.
A top Libyan official says that when the controversy over Prime Minister
Ghanem's remarks arose, Foreign Minister Shalgam immediately contacted British
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to seek his advice on how Libya could resolve
the spat with Washington quickly, so as to keep its opening to the West on
Libya scored points with the West two months ago when it pledged to abandon
its program to develop weapons of mass destruction, and invited experts from
the United States, Britain, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to dismantle
its nuclear weapons facilities.
Libya sees the lifting of U.S. travel restrictions as a first step toward
normalization of relations with Washington. The oil-rich country, which has
been under U.S. sanctions since 1986, is eager for U.S. energy companies to
return with advanced technology that will help Libya increase its oil production.