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Middle East press reaction

LONDON, England -- Newspapers across the Middle East have united in their call for an end to sanctions against Libya.

Qatar's Al-Raya newspaper said in a strongly worded editorial that the United Nations had a "duty" to lift international sanctions that were imposed in 1992.

The United Arab Emirates' Al-Ittihad, also critical of the sanctions, accused Britain and the U.S. of "blackmail" in their treatment of Libya.

Thursday's press reaction came one day after Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi, 48, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted of the 1988 murder of 259 people on board Pan Am flight 103 and 11 others in the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

A panel of three judges ordered on Wednesday that he serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole.

Libya has maintained that it played no part in the bombing and called for a lifting of sanctions.

"It is the duty of the Security Council now to take a decision to immediately lift sanctions on Libya, which has cooperated fully with the court to end this case," Al-Raya said.

President George W. Bush said the U.S. still held Libya accountable for the bombing and both the U.S. and Britain have said any lifting of sanctions would not be a quick process as several demands still had to be fulfilled.

Al-Raya urged the Security Council to look at the case "from a legal point of view away from the political influences of the United States and Britain."

This view was echoed by Al-Ittihad. "It is difficult to predict an end to this tragedy in its second phase and it depends on how Libya will deal with the conditions and blackmail by the United States and Britain and how ready Kofi Annan is... to be free of American pressure," it said in an editorial.

Sanctions were suspended in 1999 after Libya agreed to hand over the two suspects for trial in Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands. But Libya now wants the sanctions formally lifted.

Gadhafi urged to prove his innocence
Gadhafi urged to prove his innocence  

The UAE's al-Bayan said the restrictions "punished millions of innocent people for a crime they did not commit."

The Egyptian Gazette said Egypt backed Libya's call for normal ties with the rest of the world and quoted Foreign Minister Amr Moussa as saying the U.N. sanctions should be scrapped.

The plight of the Libyan people also dominated an editorial and in Khaleej Times which said the conviction of one person and the acquittal of the other was a "surprise."

"While the suspension of the embargo in April 1999, following Libya's handover of the two suspects for trial, eased the hardships on ordinary citizens, only a formal lifting of the sanctions by the Security Council can end the country's international isolation," it said.

But it said Libya, and its leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, had to prove the innocence it maintains.

"The challenge for him is to take his argument to the court of international public opinion and prove his detractors wrong and their charges groundless," the paper said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Libya faces Lockerbie pressure
February 1, 2001
Lockerbie: What happens next?
January 31, 2001
Can Libya come in from cold?
January 31, 2001
'Still searching for the truth'
January 31, 2001
The verdicts: Court timeline
January 31, 2001
Relatives focus anger on Libya
January 31, 2001

Khaleej Times
Egyptian Gazette

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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