U.S. Refuses to Lift Sanctions against Libya

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, October 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S. Refuses to Lift Sanctions against Libya


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


CITING CONCERNS ABOUT Libya's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the United States will continue bilateral sanctions on Tripoli despite the UN Security Council's Sept. 12 decision formally to lift similar decade-old sanctions.

The UN sanctions were initially imposed in 1992 in response to the bombings of a Pan Am flight en route from London to New York in 1988 and a French flight over Niger in 1989. The sanctions were lifted by a 13-0 vote, with the United States and France abstaining, after Libya agreed to take formal responsibility for the attacks and compensate the families of the Pan Am flight victims.

The UN had suspended the sanctions in 1999 after Libya handed over two officials for trial in the Pan Am bombing and following France's acknowledgement that Libya cooperated with French officials investigating the 1989 bombing.

Department of State deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington abstained from the UN vote because it did not want action on the resolution "to be misconstrued as a decision to modify" U.S. bilateral sanctions on Libya and because the Bush administration has concerns about Libya's "pursuit of weapons of mass destruction" as well as "other aspects" of the country's behavior, including its poor human rights record and "history of involvement in terrorism."

The United States maintains a series of sanctions against Libya that prohibit a wide range of economic activities. Under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, the United States can punish foreign companies for providing goods or services that contribute to Libya's ability to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

In recent months, the Bush administration has stepped up allegations that Libya is trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction. During a Sept. 16 hearing before the House International Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton identified Libya as one of four "rogue states"-along with Iran, North Korea, and Syria-attempting to "acquire or develop WMD and their means of delivery." In what could be construed as a veiled threat, Bolton in April said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq should signal to Libya that "the cost of [its] pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high. …

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