Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 6 News List

France gets time to sort out new deal with Libya

AP , UNITED NATIONS

UN diplomats said they would give France more time to reach agreement on its demands for new compensation from Libya for a 1989 bombing of a French airliner before voting to lift sanctions against the North African country. But they stressed that France needs to move quickly.

The French government is threatening to block a draft UN resolution that would lift the sanctions, saying it wants a better financial deal for the bombing of the French jet after families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, got a US$2.7 billion settlement.

Britain introduced the resolution Monday after Libya agreed to the Lockerbie compensation package and to accept responsibility for the attack -- key conditions for the lifting of the sanctions.

The families of the 170 people killed in the ill-fated UTA flight shared US$33 million in a 1999 settlement with Libya, with relatives of each victim receiving about US$194,000. In comparison, relatives of the Lockerbie victims would each get US$5 million to US$10 million.

"There was unanimity on the need to lift these sanctions -- everybody supported that," Fayssal Mekdad, Syria's deputy UN ambassador, whose country holds the Security Council presidency, said after closed-door consultations.

"What remains is the timing of the action. It was agreed that both the British delegation and the French delegation will consult speedily on this issue and report back to the council," he said.

Some council diplomats suggested France might agree to compromise language in the resolution that would support its claim for more money, and a vote could be scheduled within a week or two.

The UN sanctions were imposed in 1992 to force Muammar Qaddafi's government to surrender two men wanted in the Pan Am bombing.

British officials said that Libya had done its part and expressed concern that the French have been vague about how much time they would need, saying negotiations between Paris and Tripoli could indefinitely delay a vote on lifting sanctions.

"If we're serious about why we're imposing sanctions, we also need to be very serious about lifting them when the goals have been achieved," a British official said on condition of anonymity. "We can't shift the goalposts at the last minute ... or our credibility is going to be eroded."

The US administration has said it opposes any action that would delay final Security Council action on the Pan Am case, but an unnamed US official said Wednesday that the US was willing to give discussions more time. He did not say how long Washington was willing to wait.

The resolution would immediately end a ban on arms sales and air links with Libya. The sanctions were indefinitely suspended in 1999 after the two Libyans were handed over for trial.

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