Global Policy Forum

New Libyan Cooperation Leads to Renewed


By Warren Hoge

New York Times
July 8, 1999

London - Britain said Wednesday that it was resuming diplomatic relations with Libya after 15 years because Tripoli had agreed to assist the British police in the investigation of the fatal shooting of a London police officer outside Libya's embassy in London in 1984.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Libya had also agreed to pay compensation to the family of the dead constable and accepted "general responsibility" for the killing, which caused the break in relations. The policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, 25, died from a single wound in the back, and witnesses have said the shot came from a window of the embassy.

The resolution of the dispute over the shooting marked the second understanding Britain has reached with Libya in three months. Tripoli is showing signs of wanting to end its international isolation. Under an arrangement largely put in place by the British, on April 5 Libya surrendered for trial the two men accused of placing a bomb on a Pan Am flight that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, killing 270 people, 189 of them Americans. The surrender of the suspects led to a suspension the same day of UN sanctions on Libya, which included an air and arms embargo, a freeze on assets abroad and a ban on essential oil producing equipment.

The Security Council is currently studying a report issued Friday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said that while Libya had complied with many of the Council's demands, he was not yet able to recommend that the sanctions be permanently lifted.

The United States, which has maintained its own travel and trade sanctions on Libya, told Annan that it needed to assess Libyan cooperation during the trial, now expected to begin in February and last up to a year, before supporting an end to the United Nations sanctions. Speaking to reporters after a closed-door Council session in which the sanctions issue was debated, A. Peter Burleigh, the U.S. representative, said that "as far as the United States is concerned, Libya has not met all the requirements" for lifting sanctions. Washington broke relations with Libya in 1981, charging that the government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi was supporting terrorism.

The two men Libya turned over in April, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, are to be tried by a special Scottish court in the Netherlands. It was this formula -- promoted by Britain -- of holding the trial in a third country that ended Libya's refusal to cooperate with American and British prosecutors.

Though the killing of Ms. Fletcher occurred 15 years ago, it is an especially unforgettable event for the British because they witnessed it unfold on live television. For days after she was removed from the shooting scene, her police helmet remained in the no man's land that St. James' Square had become. There was added poignancy in the fact that among the police officers who frantically dragged Ms. Fletcher away was her fiance, Constable Michael Liddle. She died 15 minutes after arriving at Westminster Hospital.

The shooting took place as anti-Gadhafi protesters had gathered outside the embassy. A burst of automatic gunfire was heard and 11 demonstrators fell wounded. The shot that hit Ms. Fletcher in the back was thought to have come from the first floor. The murder weapon was later identified as a British-made Sterling submachine gun, which was standard issue in the Libyan Army. No one was ever charged in the shooting, and 22 Libyan Embassy officials were allowed to leave the building 10 days later under police escort to Heathrow Airport.

Britain cut off diplomatic relations with Tripoli immediately, and public outrage here grew when the Libyan diplomats were given a hero's welcome on their return home.

Cook said Wednesday's breakthrough would lead to the British Interests Section in Tripoli being upgraded to full embassy status and an ambassador appointed "as quickly as practical." Cook said that Libya "accepts general responsibility for the actions of those in the Libyan People's Bureau at the time of the shooting." The Libyans "express deep regret to the family for what occurred and offer to pay compensation now to the family," Cook said. He added, "Libya agrees to participate and cooperate with the continuing police investigation and to accept its outcome."

The Fletcher family issued their own statement saying they had waited a long time for Wednesday's action and that they viewed the offer of compensation as Libyan "acceptance of responsibility for Yvonne's death."

More Information on Sanctions Against Libya


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.