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Congress passes bill to settle Libya suits

August 01, 2008|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress on Thursday approved legislation that will allow the State Department to settle all remaining lawsuits against Libya by U.S. terrorism victims.

The bill paves the way for mending the last rifts between the U.S. and Libya, but only after the country fully compensates Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin.

The Senate passed the measure without objection Thursday. The House followed suit later in the day, sending it to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

The measure creates a new fund to compensate the victims and grants Libya immunity from terrorism-related lawsuits once the secretary of State certifies that victims have been paid.

The measure could lend momentum to the Bush administration's attempts to restore full ties between Washington and Tripoli, which have stalled over the terrorism claims. Congress has blocked direct aid to Libya, the construction of a new U.S. embassy there, and the confirmation of the first U.S. ambassador to the nation until U.S. victims are paid.

Libya has paid the 268 families involved in the Pan Am settlement $8 million each, and owes them $2 million more.

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