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U.N. court to hear wrangling over 1988 Pan Am bombing

Libya faces the United States and Britain before the International Court of Justice Monday in the next stage of their legal wrangle over the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Britain and the United States blame Libya for the attack and, backed by the U.N. Security Council, have called for the extradition of two suspects from Libya.The Security Council imposed sanctions on Libya in April 1992 for its failure to cooperate.

Libya maintains it is entitled under international law to try the men in Libya and has asked for a ruling to that effect from the International Court of Justice.

The Boeing 747 jumbo jet, en route from London to New York, exploded over the village of Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

Libya has also offered to hand the men over for trial in a neutral, third country - a proposal rejected out of hand by London and Washington.

Based on the Oct. 13-22 hearings, the International Court of Justice must first decide whether it has jurisdiction over the case. Britain and the United States say it does not.

Only then can proceedings progress.

"In nine years, we have seen neither truth nor justice. This is not a distaster to be used by politicians to strut about," said Jim Swire, spokesman for UK Families-Flight 103, which groups most of the 30 bereaved British families.

Speaking by telephone from Britain, he said he planned to travel to The Hague to attend next week's hearings.

"Some solution has to be found to break the deadlock."

Alistair Duff, the Scottish lawyer representing the Libyan suspects, said the wheels of justice were moving so slowly he doubted his clients would ever have to answer charges.

"Unless Britain or the U.S. are prepared to countenance a trial somewhere else, my view is there will never be a trial anywhere," he said.

Legal experts said the International Court of Justice, set up in 1945 as a U.N. body, had a difficult course to steer.