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France Reaches Deal With Libya over UTA Bombing - 2003-09-01

France says it expects Libya and the families of 170 people killed in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Africa to sign a compensation deal soon, clearing the way for the end of U.N. sanctions against Tripoli. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told French RFI radio that the government has reached a compensation agreement in principle.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi announced an agreement Sunday on a compensation deal for the bombing of a French UTA jet over Niger in 1989.

Mr. De Villepin also indicated that Paris could allow the Security Council to pass a British resolution lifting sanctions against Libya. France has the power to veto the measure.

Responding to a question from the French radio, Mr. De Villepin said France has always said it backs the principle of lifting sanctions. But it had threatened to hold up a British proposal to that effect unless its own compensation claim has been satisfied.

Libya has already paid $34 million to France, but it never admitted liability.

Britain moved to end U.N. sanctions on Libya after Tripoli agreed last month to pay $2.7 billion to families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The sanctions include a ban on arms sales and air links with Libya. They were suspended in 1999 after two Libyans were turned over to be tried for the Lockerbie bombing.

France had threatened to block the action unless Libya increased payments for the UTA bombing.