White House nixes lifting sanctions against Libya after bombing conviction
Bush: Accept responsibility, compensate families of victims first
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The guilty verdict against a Libyan suspect in the deadly 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 won't affect U.S. sanctions against the North African nation, U.S. President George Bush said Wednesday.
"I appreciate so very much that the Scottish court has made a decision and convicted a member of the Libyan intelligence service," Bush told reporters at the White House.
But, the president said, no verdict "can change the suffering and loss" known by the families of those who died aboard the doomed jet.
"The United States government will continue to pressure Libya to accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families," he said.
The court, meeting in Camp Zeist, Netherlands, found Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi guilty in the Pan Am bombing, which killed 259 people aboard the plane and 11 people on the ground when it exploded above Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988.
The court found co-defendant Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah not guilty, concluding that the prosecution had not proven the case against him beyond reasonable doubt.
"This does not mean that Fahima (sic) is innocent of the crime charged," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said in a paper statement released about two hours after the verdict was announced.
Some sanctions pre-date bombing
The United States has unilateral sanctions against Libya, including sanctions on international companies that invest in Libya, imposed in 1992 by then-President Bill Clinton, and other sanctions that predate the 1988 bombing.
U.N. sanctions, which also include a ban on the sale of some oil equipment, were suspended in 1999 when Libya turned over the two suspects for trial. Libya wants the sanctions permanently lifted.
The Bush administration said Libya must meet certain requirements under the U.N. Security Council resolutions before the Clinton-imposed U.S. air and arms embargo will be permanently lifted. Those requirements, the United States said, include compensating the families and accepting responsibility "for this act of terrorism."
"The government of Libya has not yet satisfied these requirements," said Fleischer.
In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan ordered sanctions on all commercial and financial transactions between Libya and the United States.
The White House said it would consult "closely" with the United Kingdom and then approach the Libyan government "in the near future" about what next steps it "must take" under the U.N. resolutions.
CNN Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.
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