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Libya Increases Payments to French in Jet's Bombing

Deal may allow Kadafi to close the Lockerbie case and bring an end to U.N. sanctions.

September 01, 2003|From Reuters

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi said Sunday that a deal had been struck to increase compensation for a 1989 French airliner bombing, allowing Libya to close the Lockerbie case and repair relations with the West.

A compensation dispute erupted after Britain acted to end U.N. sanctions on Libya when Tripoli agreed this month to pay $2.7 billion to families of 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

But France, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, threatened to block the move unless Tripoli increased compensation to relatives of 170 people killed when a UTA airliner was blown up over Niger in 1989.

Though Libya has never admitted responsibility, it paid $34 million to France after a Paris court convicted six Libyans in absentia for the killings.

Kadafi announced the settlement in a speech on the anniversary of a coup that brought him to power in 1969.

He repeated Libya's assertion that it had no role in the Pan Am or UTA bombings.

He said Libya was blamed for both due to disputes with the United States and France in the 1970s and 1980s.

Britain had held off submitting the U.N. resolution ending sanctions against Libya to avoid another embarrassing split with France in the U.N. Security Council after bitter differences over the Iraq war.

"The deal is done, the terms will be announced tomorrow," said Saad Djebbar, a London-based lawyer who advised Libya on the Lockerbie case.

Francoise Rudetzki, head of a victims support group that visited Libya, said: "We have reached an agreement in principle, but the details have not yet been worked out."

A source familiar with the Libyan position said Saturday that Tripoli had offered about $300,000 per family.

That would be a significant increase over the original payout but still less than the families had been seeking, and far less than what relatives of Lockerbie victims are supposed to get: as much as $10 million per family.

Djebbar had said Saturday that Libya would be ready to increase the sum if French President Jacques Chirac pledged that France would back, or at least not block, an end to U.N. sanctions.

The French Foreign Ministry said Chirac had spoken to Kadafi on Sunday, the second time in eight days.

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