The State Department said Thursday Libya has made a substantial initial
payment into a U.S.-administered fund to settle remaining claims from
Libyan-inspired acts of terrorism. The settlement plan would clear the
way to fully-normalized U.S.-Libyan relations. VOA's David Gollust
reports from the State Department.
Officials are not saying just
how much the Libyan payment was, but they do say that it is substantial
and evidence of Libyan good faith in fulfilling a compensation deal
reached in August.
The process of normalizing U.S.-Libyan
relations, which began when Libya renounced terrorism and weapons of
mass destruction, has been stopped short of completion over lingering
terrorism compensation claims.
In 2003 Libya accepted
responsibility for several acts of terrorism in the 1980s including
the 1988 bombing over Scotland of a Pan Am jumbo jet which killed 270
Libya paid most of a $2.7 billion compensation package negotiated with Pan Am victims' families but the
process broke down amid legal disputes.
The U.S.-Libyan accord
reached in August set up a nominally-voluntary fund that would pay
remaining claims of American claimants, and to Libyans who have sought
compensation in that country's courts for U.S. retaliatory air strikes
In a telephone conference call with reporters Thursday,
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said
the U.S.-run "humanitarian" fund will eventually total $1.8
billion, of which 300 million would go to settle the Libyan
Welch, who led the U.S. negotiating team for the accord,
said the Libyan payment is a "substantial indication" of Libya's
commitment to fully implement the deal, and said he is optimistic the
process will be finished soon.
"I've always said I was
optimistic," he said. "But I've also always said that I didn't want to
put a timetable down. Of course in our private discussions, we've had
some exchanges about our expectations on how soon this would move. And
I would note, as I said earlier, that it's a promising thing that a
substantial deposit has actually now been received, and directly into a
U.S. government account."
Once the account is fully funded, the
Bush administration is to grant Libya immunity from additional
terrorism-related court cases, and then remaining compensation is to be
Welch was not specific about the source of the
Libyan payment but said the Libyan government has asked Libyan and
other companies doing business in that country to contribute to the
He said he did not know if American companies operating
in Libya had been solicited or made contributions, but said Libyan
authorities have been told the U.S. government "would not countenance"
pressure tactics to get them to participate.
The two countries
announced a normalization of relations in 2006 and Condoleezza Rice in
September paid the first visit to Libya by a U.S. Secretary of State in
over 50 years.
However, congressional restrictions related to
compensation have prevented a full U.S. ambassador from taking up
residence in Tripoli, and have barred funding for a new U.S. embassy