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Sanctions on Libya

THE United Nations Security Council voted this week to impose travel and trade embargoes against Libya for terrorist acts. The vote has two striking aspects. First, it's momentous that the Security Council, without veto by any permanent member or registered dissent by other members, again voted to punish a UN member - as it did before the Gulf war.

It wasn't long ago that cold-war divisions made such punishment unthinkable. Thus the Libya vote marks another step forward in the UN's emergence as a strong enforcer of international law.

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The other striking feature of the vote, however, was the narrowness of the victory - both in the Security Council itself and in world opinion. The 10-0 vote was just a single vote above the required minimum, with five members of the Security Council abstaining. Among these was Morocco, the single Arab country now on the Security Council. The vote was decried throughout the Arab world, including by countries like Egypt and Syria that joined the UN coalition against Saddam Hussein.

This signals that the United States, Britain, and France still have much diplomatic work ahead to establish that the vote was a victory for all nations against terrorism and not a ganging up by the West against a small Arab state. The vote does not reflect - as some Arabs charge - a double standard, even though Israel flouts UN resolutions regarding the occupied territories

The sanctions vote was a response to Libya's refusal to surrender for trial six agents suspected of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988 and a French airliner over Niger in 1989. A total of 440 passengers died. The world community's right to punish such criminal acts must be upheld.

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