U.S. Delays Easing Libya Sanctions After PM's Comments


By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday delayed plans to lift U.S. travel restrictions to Libya after the Libyan prime minister denied his country's guilt in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Washington immediately demanded a retraction of the comments by Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem, who said Tripoli had only agreed to pay compensation to bombing victims in order to "buy peace."

President Bush had been poised to ease the decades-old travel ban and take other steps on Tuesday to reward Libya for scrapping its nuclear arms programs. But officials said the announcement was put on hold in protest.

U.S. officials said they expected the Libyan government to issue a statement backing away from Ghanem's comments. If it does so, the White House was likely to go forward with plans to lift the travel ban later this week.

"Libya made it very clear in their letter to the United Nations that it accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials on that very matter (Lockerbie). And I would expect Libya to make clear that that is still their position," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Susan Cohen, whose daughter was among the 270 Lockerbie victims, said the denial showed Libya had not changed its attitudes.

"I think this is outrageous that the U.S. government stands for this. The United States is supposed to be making Libya accept responsibility and here you have the prime minister denying it. I think the United States is giving Libya a pass just to get Libyan oil," she said.
Well, fancy that - a Prime Minister denying guilt and refusing to accept responsibility....

No wonder Bliar can't wait to go and visit - he's obviously found a kindred spirit.