Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's qualified acceptance of a proposal to end the stalemate over the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 could help ease his country's international isolation.
For more than six years, Libya has been subjected to U.N. sanctions aimed at forcing Gadhafi to surrender two Libyan suspects in the 1988 attack of the jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270, including 189 Americans.On Wednesday, Libya issued a qualified acceptance of a U.S.-British compromise to try the two suspects in the Netherlands but also urged that U.N. sanctions against Libya be lifted.
In a statement, Libya also appealed to the United States and Britain not to "impose . . . conditions which might block the trial."
But Libya did not say when the suspects might be moved to the Netherlands or when the trial might start. There are likely to be intense behind-the-scenes negotiations during the coming weeks concerning details of any trial, which could still fall through.
The Libyan move became possible after Washington and London agreed to a trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law, dropping their earlier insistence that any trial must be in Britain or the United States.
Libya and the Western nations involved would see a trial in the Netherlands as a victory. Libya has demanded a trial on "neutral" ground, and America and Britain have long sought justice in the terrorist attack.
A Clinton administration official traveling with the president in Edgartown, Mass., reacted cautiously to Libya's announcement.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Libya's response must be studied.
"I find it very hard to see how Col. Gadhafi, with honor and decency, can now not comply with an offer he himself recognizes as the one he was seeking," Cook said Thursday in a British Broadcasting Corp. television interview.
But Daniel Cohen of Cape May Court House, N.J., whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora Cohen died in the attack, called the Libyan announcement a "propaganda ploy" and said he didn't believe Libya would accept the proposal in the end.
"We're going to be jerked around like this a lot before this is over," Cohen said.
In an interview with BBC radio Thursday, defense lawyer Alistair Duff declined to say what he would recommend his clients do.