U.N. Security Council Lifts Sanctions Against Libya

The U.N. Security Council (search) on Friday lifted 11-year-old sanctions against Libya, formally ending a ban on arms sales and flights imposed after Moammar Gadhafi's (search) government was implicated in airliner bombings over Scotland and the Sahara desert.

The United States and France abstained. The remaining 13 council members supported lifting the sanctions imposed in the wake of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am (search) jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

The vote was more symbolic than substantive because the sanctions have been suspended for more than four years.

However, U.S. sanctions against Libya will remain in place. Those sanctions include a ban on American oil companies doing business in Libya, which is among the top 10 countries in the world in oil reserves.

The sanctions also prohibit weapons contracts, economic ties and investment by U.S. firms, and bar most U.S. travel to Libya.

U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham said the American decision to allow the lifting of U.N. sanctions "should not be misconstrued by Libya or by the world community as tacit U.S. acceptance that the government of Libya has rehabilitated itself."

Cunningham said the United States was concerned about Libya's poor human rights record, rejection of democracy, history of involvement in terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

He accused Libya of seeking "a broad range" of such weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, and receiving assistance from unnamed countries "that sponsor terrorism."

A partial agreement reached Thursday between Libya and relatives of the victims of a 1989 French airliner bombing cleared the way for the council vote eagerly sought by Gadhafi's government.

The council first imposed the sanctions in 1992 to force Libya to hand over two men indicted for the Pan Am bombing. The sanctions were broadened in 1993.

Once the men were turned over in April 1999, the council suspended the sanctions indefinitely — but Libya pressed for the embargoes to be lifted to restore its standing in the international community.

The U.N. actions clears the way for the families of the Lockerbie victims to be paid $4 million each under a compensation deal signed Aug. 15. Many family members were in the Security Council gallery watching the vote.

For more than three weeks, France threatened to veto the resolution unless relatives of the 170 people killed on a UTA (search) airliner flight got more money from Libya.

Families of the UTA victims on Thursday announced a framework agreement with Libya calling for a definitive settlement on increased compensation in a month, clearing the way to lift sanctions.

In 1999, France settled with Libya for $33 million to be shared by families of the victims of the UTA flight, which exploded over the Niger desert in 1989. That deal amounted to about $194,000 for each victim.

But France sought a better deal after Libya agreed Aug. 15 to a $2.7 billion compensation deal for the 270 Lockerbie victims. That deal will give each victim's family $5 million to $10 million.

Under the accord signed Wednesday night in Tripoli by representatives of the UTA victims and a Libyan charity, a French foundation will be set up to pay out indemnities. However, no figure on increased compensation has been put forth by either side.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere (search) said his government abstained because the UTA-Libya agreement was not yet finalized.

Britain and the United States said in an Aug. 15 letter to the council that Libya met all the requirements to lift sanctions — agreeing to a compensation deal, accepting responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, renouncing terrorism and offering to cooperate in any future investigations.

A Scottish court convicted Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi (search) of the bombing in 2001 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. A second Libyan was acquitted.

If the United States lifts its sanctions against Libya, families of the Lockerbie victims will receive another $4 million. If Libya is removed from the State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism, they get another $2 million.

If U.S. sanctions are not lifted, each Lockerbie family will get an additional $1 million after October, according to the Aug. 15 agreement.