The obituary of Kofi Annan in today's edition of The Guardian contains the following paragraph:
'He was by nature a conciliator, a “diplomat’s diplomat”. But he also had the courage of his convictions and stuck to his guns even when powerful UN members urged retreat. A notable example was his intervention in Baghdad in 1998 to defuse a crisis over UN arms inspections in Iraq, where he went ahead with negotiations, against strong pressure from Washington to stay away; and he spoke out against the US invasion of 2003. Similarly, he defied Britain and the US when he negotiated with Libya to end a security council stalemate over the Lockerbie bombing.'
My own perception of that period, as someone peripherally involved, is that Kofi Annan's office found the negotiating with the United Kingdom and the United States much more difficult and taxing than negotiating with Libya. Here is something that I wrote some years ago:
'Although the British proposal [for a Scottish non-jury court to sit in the Netherlands] was announced in late August 1998, it was not until 5 April 1999 that the two suspects actually arrived in the Netherlands for trial before the Scottish court. Why the delay? The answer is that some of the fine print in the two documents [that set out the details of the proposal] was capable of being interpreted, and was in fact interpreted, by the Libyan defence team (now chaired by Mr Kamel Hassan Maghur as successor to Dr Legwell) and the Libyan government as having been deliberately designed to create pitfalls to entrap them. And since the governments of the United Kingdom and United States resolutely refused to have any direct contact with either the Libyan government or the Libyan defence lawyers -- their attitude being that the scheme had been advanced on a “take it or leave it basis” and that no negotiations would be entered in to -- these concerns could be dealt with only through an intermediary, namely the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan (or, in practice, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, Hans Corell). This meant that issues that could have been thrashed out and settled in a matter of a few hours in a face-to-face meeting took weeks and months to resolve. The US government, particularly the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, took every available opportunity to accuse the Libyan government and lawyers of stalling and trying to wriggle out of the assurances they had given over the years to support a “neutral venue” trial. My own clear impression, however, through my continuing contacts with the Libyans, was that if anyone was looking for pretexts to avoid a trial ever taking place, it was the US and UK governments.'