Monday, 5 January 2015

Saudi Arabia/South Africa Lockerbie mediation attempt blocked

[What follows is a report published on Bloomberg News on this date in 1999:]

Saudi, South Africa Blocked From Mediating in Libya Standoff

A Security Council panel turned down a request by Saudi Arabian and South African diplomats to travel to Libya in an effort to break the stalemate over sanctions against the country, Slovenian diplomat Janez Lenarcic said.

“There was no consensus in the committee to approve the request,” Lenarcic said. He would not identify which committee member or members opposed the request. [RB: My sources at the time told me that the opponents were the United States and the United Kingdom.] Slovenia is a non-permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council and its ambassador, Danilo Turk, heads the council's sanctions committee.

Libya has been under United Nations sanctions restricting travel and arms sales since April 1992 because of its refusal to hand over two Libyans accused of blowing up a Pam-Am airliner ten years ago over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The crash killed 270 people, including [11] on the ground.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is currently on an official visit to South Africa where he's expected to ask South African President Nelson Mandela to urge Libya to accept a US-British plan to try the two suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

Last week US President Bill Clinton said he'll seek to tighten international sanctions against Libya unless it agrees to a trial for the two in the Netherlands by February.

The request for permission to travel to Libya was made by Saudi Arabia's Washington ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, on behalf of the Saudi kingdom.

“As a follow-up to the conversations with the (UN) secretary-general regarding the Lockerbie situation, I'm kindly requesting the permission of the sanctions committee to travel directly to Tripoli and Sirte,'' Prince Bandar wrote in his letter to committee chairman Turk.

He was referring to secretary-general Kofi Annan who last month made a personal appeal to Libyan leader Muammar Al Qaddafi to move forward on the Lockerbie issue which the US and Britain wanted to have settled by Dec 21 last year, the tenth anniversary of the bombing.

Prince Bandar said during the visit he would represent Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. [RB: Abdullah succeeded to the throne in 2005.] Accompanying him would be South Africa's Jakes Gerwel, the director-general in the office of the president, representing Mandela.

The request was made during the new year's holiday. Had it been granted, Prince Bandar and Gerwel along with a staff of 15, would have arrived in Tripoli today, according to the letter, and would have stayed for two days.

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