Morrison, James, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL
Geoffrey Hoon was uncomfortable with the question.
A reporter asked the British Foreign Office minister what London would do if the trial of two suspected Libyan terrorists reveals that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave the order to blow up an airliner over Scotland in 1988.
"Let's make it clear," Mr. Hoon responded yesterday. "Gadhafi is not on trial."
Britain has a lot at stake, having just re-established full diplomatic relations with Libya.
Mr. Hoon, who has responsibility for British foreign policy from North Africa to New Zealand, explained how Britain is dealing with some of the world's most dangerous regimes.
He said Britain has solved its problems with Libya now that the two Lockerbie bombing suspects are to be tried and Libya has accepted responsibility for the 1984 death of a British police officer outside the Libyan Embassy in London. Officer Yvonne Fletcher was killed when a gunman inside the embassy fired on a crowd of demonstrators.
Britain, which also has diplomatic relations with Iran, is hoping for a fair trial for the 13 Iranian Jews who were arrested there on charges of spying for Israel, he said.
Mr. Hoon declined to say how Britain would respond if the trial turns out to be a sham.
"Until we see how the process works out, it is premature to talk about consequences," he said.
He said Britain believes "there is the possibility of real change" in Iran with the election of President Mohammed Khatami, whom London considers a moderate.
Mr. Hoon said Britain also differs with the United States on how to encourage a change of leadership in Iraq. While Washington plans to fund the exiled democratic opposition, Britain is hoping for the best.
"It is not British government policy to overthrow or destabilize Iraq," he said.
Britain suspects Iraq may still be developing weapons of mass destruction.
"Given the record of Iraq, I suspect our worse suspicions will not be that far off," he said.
Though Mr. Hoon is on his first visit to Washington in his current position, he is no stranger to the United States. He once taught law in Kentucky and has visited 46 states. …