Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 6 News List

EU and Libya ink deal to compensate victims of bombing

AFP , BRUSSELS

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, on Friday welcomed a deal signed by Libya in Paris to compensate victims of the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over the Sahara.

"The agreement reached between the Qaddafi Foundation and the representatives of the families of the victims of Flight UT772 is good news for everyone," said EU Commission president Romano Prodi in a statement.

"This agreement also proves how dialogue and unselfish and hard work can pay off.

"I salute the efforts of the French and Libyan governments. This confirms that 2004 can mark a decisive turning point in the relations between Europe and Libya."

Prodi said he was hopeful that the agreement would "allow Libya to take its full place in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership," or Euromed, which links the EU and countries on the southern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin had said earlier Friday after talks with his Libyan counterpart that his country was in favor of a "progressive normalization" of relations between the EU and Libya.

Chad also hailed the deal.

"The Chadian government welcomes the signing of this agreement, which will compensate the victims, including 29 Chadians," Chadian Communication Minister Moctar Wawa Dahab told AFP.

"The Chadian government also welcomes Libya's commitment to find a final solution to this problem," he added.

Earlier Friday, Libya signed the deal in Paris offering US$170 million in compensation for the 1989 bombing, which killed 170 people, including 54 French nationals.

After several months of negotiations the Qaddafi Foundation, which has been acting for the Libyan government, agreed to pay US$1 million to families of each of the victims killed when the DC-10 belonging to the UTA airline crashed in Niger.

The sum falls far short of the US$10 million dollars offered by Libya for each of the 270 dead on the jet blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. Libya reached that deal with Britain and the US in August.

The lawyer for the association representing relatives of the Chadian victims of the UTA crash, Amady Nathe, said he was also happy with the Paris agreement, although the money involved was less than that offered under the Lockerbie compensation.

Libya has never admitted responsibility for the UTA crash, in which nationals of 16 countries died. However, as with Lockerbie, Tripoli was prepared to cut a financial deal to win back international acceptance.

Under the UTA deal, the US$170 million will be paid in four installments, with a first check for US$42.5 million handed over at Friday's Paris signing.

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