[On this date in 1998 a report headlined Lockerbie Suspects May Be Tried at World Court was published in The New York Times. It reads as follows (with a correction added online three days later):]
The United States and Britain may agree to allow a trial in the Hague, under Scottish law, for two Libyans accused of blowing up a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, a United States Government official said tonight.
The official, who has followed international negotiations over what to do with the suspects, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said talks about trying the suspects in the Hague, more formally known as the World Court, have been under way.
The United States and Britain have previously insisted that the suspects, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, be tried in Scotland or the United States. When Libya refused to allow the two to be extradited in 1992, Britain and the United States successfully pushed for United Nations sanctions against Libya. But support for the sanctions has withered in recent months, especially among African nations, and in February the World Court ruled that it had the authority to decide whether Libya had to surrender its two citizens for trial in another country.
Given the court's decision, a softening of positions in both London and Washington would not appear to be surprising, and The Guardian of London reported on Tuesday that a joint announcement by the British Foreign Office and Secretary of State Madeleine K Albright could come within a few days.
James P Rubin, a spokesman for the State Department, declined comment tonight on the report. The department's position is still that ''Libya must comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and surrender the suspects for trial before United States or Scottish courts,'' he said. ''We continue to look for ways to achieve our objective. Beyond that, I can't comment on discussions with other governments.''
Mr Rubin's comments were remarkably similar to those of a British Foreign Office spokesman, who said, ''Our policy remains unchanged, and that is Libya must surrender the suspects for trial in Scotland or the US.''
The bombing of the Pan Am 747 jetliner over the tiny village of Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killed 270 people, including 11 villagers. An investigation concluded that the bombing was carried out by Libyan agents who put the explosive in a suitcase.
The Guardian reported that Britain and the United States may agree to a trial in the Hague, under Scottish law, with an international panel of judges presided over by a senior Scottish jurist appointed by London.
If that is indeed the arrangement, then the standoff would appear to be nearing resolution in Libya's favor, given its insistence on such terms.
Correction: July 24, 1998, Friday An article in some copies on Tuesday about a possible trial of two Libyans accused of blowing up a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 misstated a possible site for it. The men might indeed be tried in The Hague but not at the International Court of Justice, which is in that city.
[RB: The official announcement of the Lockerbie trial came just over one month later, on 24 August 1998.]