Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Libya makes offer of compensation to Lockerbie victims

AP AND REUTERS , CAIRO, EGYPT AND LONDON

A Libyan government official confirmed yesterday that a preliminary deal has been reached to pay US$2.7 billion to relatives of those killed in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Lawyers representing the American families whose relatives were among the 270 people killed when Flight 103 exploded, announced Tuesday in the US that the Libyan government has offered to pay US$10 million per family to be disbursed as the US takes clearly defined steps toward ending its attempts to isolate Libya.

The Libyan government has not officially commented on the announcement, which has yet to be mentioned in any media in the North African nation.

However, the government official confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity, calling it a "preliminary agreement." He would not discuss details.

The official said a "political meeting" would be held June 6 in London that will include US and Libyan government officials. He said those attending would include William Burns, a senior US State Department official, British Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw and Libya's ambassador to London, Mohammed Abdul Quasim al-Zwai.

The State Department has not been involved in the negotiations. A senior department official expressed doubt that the Bush administration would approve the arrangement.

Burns was en route to Cairo yesterday for meetings on the Mideast peace process and could not immediately be contacted.

The official said the Libyan team involved in negotiating the deal has no official status -- an attempt to indicate the Libyan government wasn't involved.

However, other Libyan officials have said privately in the past that the same people identified yesterday as participants in the upcoming London meeting, plus Libyan intelligence chief Moussa Kousa, had met earlier this year in London to discuss such a financial settlement.

The British government and British relatives of those killed in the bombing reacted cautiously to the offer.

"There are so many ifs and buts about it. It doesn't change anything for us. I just stand and watch," Lisa Mosey said after the proposed agreement put the price of her daughter Helga's life at US$10 million.

David Ben-Aryeah, confidential adviser to British victims, agreed: "Let's wait and see. A deal is not a deal until it is submitted in writing, payment is received and the check cleared. Talk is cheap -- actions speak louder than words."

Britain's Foreign Office was also guarded. "We shall study the details of the Libyan offer and seek the views of the Lockerbie families, their lawyers and the United States," said a spokesman.

"We shall be unable to determine whether Libya has met the requirements until we know the families' formal response to the offer and have studied Libya's full and final response to all the demands of the UN resolutions," the British Foreign Office spokesman said.

He added that Britain and the US would hold trilateral discussions soon with Libya and would urge it to resolve all the outstanding issues as soon as possible.

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