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Britain Proposes Lifting Sanctions Against Libya; France Threatens Veto - 2003-08-19

Britain has introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council to lift sanctions against Libya. The U.N.-imposed the sanctions after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. British ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he hopes for a vote in favor of the resolution by the end of the week. But the veto-wielding French are not onboard.

The British-sponsored resolution follows a letter delivered to the Security Council late last week. In the letter the Libyan government accepts responsibility for the bombing, which killed 270 people. Tripoli also renounces terrorism in the letter, and offers $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families - about $10 million each.

The deal was worked out after long negotiations between Britain, the United States and Libya. Ambassador Parry said the sanctions should not be prolonged now that Libya has complied with the conditions set by the Security Council.

"Our wish is to see an early vote. This has been a long, painful, protracted negotiation, especially for the families. We believe we have reached our solution, which conforms with the conditions laid down by the Security Council previously and on that basis we should move to a vote," he said.

But France is balking at the deal because the families of 170 victims of a 1989 attack on a French airliner over Niger, in West Africa, only received compensation of about $34 million - less than $34,000 each. Libya has never accepted responsibility for the downing of the French airplane. But a French court found six Libyans guilty in absentia.

France does not say it will veto the resolution but is pressuring Libya for a better deal.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the resolution Wednesday. But it cannot vote on the measure until Libya deposits the compensation into a special account.