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Libya Wants Sanctions Lifted, Before Paying Lockerbie Victims - 2002-05-29


Libya is reportedly offering to pay $2.7 billion to the families of those who died when Pan Am Flight 103 was downed by a terrorist bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. But before Libya hands over the money it wants U.N. and U.S. sanctions against Libya lifted.

The mid-air explosion killed 270 people: all 259 people on board Flight 103 and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.

In January of 2001 Abdel Basset al Megrahi, a member of a Libyan security organization, was found guilty of the bombing and two months ago a Scottish appeals court upheld the conviction.

While the Libyan government has denied any involvement in the bombing, it reportedly is offering to pay $10 million to each of the 270 victims' families. Lawyers familiar with the offer say 40 percent of the money would be released when U.N. sanctions against Libya are lifted, another 40 percent when U.S. commercial sanctions are removed and the remaining 20 percent when Libya is taken off the U.S. State Department list of states that sponsor terrorists.

Hassan Nafae, chairman of the political science department at Cairo University, says Libya is making a "straight cash-for-political-gain offer." From the Libyan perspective this has been a political trial and a settlement should be political in a way to compensate the families in exchange for lifting the sanctions, whether it's the U.N. sanctions, the U.S. sanctions or to lift Libya from the [U.S.] list of state's that sponsor terrorists," he said. "The compensation is one thing and the political terms of a settlement is another thing. So, Libya is trying to exchange money for political purposes. I will be surprised if the United States can accept such a deal."

Even if the United States does not accept the Libyan offer, Mr. Nafae says its sends a message to Washington that Libya "appears interested in rectifying the past in an effort to improve future relations."

The U.S. has said Libya must accept responsibility for the explosion, compensate the families and publicly renounce terrorism before sanctions are completely removed.

The U.S. State Department has in recent months said that Libya has taken positive steps toward meeting U.S. demands.

The U.N. and U.S. sanctions included an air and arms embargo, a ban on some oil equipment and U.S. sanctions on all commercial and financial transactions between Libya and the United States.

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