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Compensation Agreement for 1989 Airliner Bombing Signals New Era for French-Libyan Relations - 2004-01-09

The French government signaled Friday it would help Libya reintegrate into the world community, following Tripoli's agreement to compensate the families of victims of a 1989 airliner bombing. Under the agreement, the families will receive a $170 million compensation package from a private Libyan foundation.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told reporters a separate compensation agreement signed by a private Libyan foundation will help resolve a sad chapter for families of the bombed UTA airliner. Speaking at a joint news conference with Libya's foreign minister, Abdurrahman Shalgham, Mr. de Villepin said the deal also puts French-Libyan relations on new footing.

He said a new chapter has opened in relations with Libya. He added that the two countries would work together for international peace and the development of Africa and that France would help Libya normalize its relations with the European Union, and the rest of the international community.

Some families of the UTA bombing victims expressed satisfaction with the agreement reached earlier Friday with the private Libyan fund. The fund is run by the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. It stipulates that families of the victims will get $1 million each in addition to what they had received earlier. Other families complained it was insufficient. The amount is less than what Libya settled with families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie.

The French courts convicted six Libyans in absentia for the UTA bombing, including the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. But Tripoli has never admitted responsibility, and in Paris, Libya's foreign minister did not change that assertion.

Mr. Shalgham called the UTA bombing a sad accident, but he says its resolution offers a way to strengthen bilateral relations with France.

He also said that, now that Libya has decided to give up its weapons of mass destruction, the international community must reach out to Libya.