Libya would pay hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate US victims of terrorism under a tentative agreement that hinges on action by the US Congress, sources familiar with the accord said on Wednesday.
The US and Libya worked out the tentative deal to resolve all outstanding cases of what Washington regards as past Libyan terrorist acts that killed or injured Americans.
If carried out, the deal could end the legal liability to Libya stemming from multiple lawsuits by families of the US victims and it could herald a further warming in ties between Tripoli and Washington.
Relations between the two nations have dramatically improved since Libya’s 2003 decision to abandon its pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Under the deal, Libya would set aside US$536 million to pay the remaining claims from the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and US$283 million to compensate those killed and injured in the bombing of a West Berlin disco in 1986, said attorney Jim Kreindler, whose law firm represents 130 Lockerbie victims.
Two-hundred-and-seventy people died when a bomb destroyed a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. The Berlin disco bomb killed three and injured 229.
The deal would also set aside additional funds to compensate victims of other incidents blamed on Libya, possibly bringing the total payout to more than US$1 billion.
To implement the tentative agreement, however, Congress would have to relieve Libya of the effects of a law enacted this year making it easier for terrorism victims to collect damages by having the assets of target governments frozen.
“It’s not locked in,” a senior US official said of the tentative agreement. “Congressional action would help us enormously to make sure it happens.”
Meanwhile, the release of two Swiss nationals in Libya may herald an end to a 15-day crisis between the two countries sparked by the arrest of Muammar Qaddafi’s son, a Swiss ministry official said on Wednesday.
“This would seem to be the end of the crisis ... [but] the situation is ongoing,” a spokesman for the Swiss ministry of foreign affairs said.
But it was still too early to say if bilateral relations were back on track, he said.
The Swiss pair were freed late on Tuesday on bail and are now in the care of the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, according to the embassy, although they do not have permission to leave Libya.
The two had been detained in the wake of the July 15 arrest of Hannibal Qaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammer, on suspicion of assaulting hotel staff. His wife was also detained.
The Qaddafis, who have denied the allegations, were released on bail two days after they were detained, as Libya began a string of retaliatory measures.
Tripoli announced it was suspending oil shipments to Switzerland, stopped issuing visas to Swiss nationals, and shut the offices of two Swiss companies, food giant Nestle and engineering group ABB, in the Libyan capital.