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France, Libya Strike Deal on UTA Victims' Compensation

Libya said it has agreed to French demands for higher compensation for victims of the bombing of a French airliner.

After more than a week of last-ditch negotiations, Libya and France have struck a deal that is expected to eliminate the final obstacle to the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Libya. Reports out of Tripoli confirm that the Libyan government has agreed to increase compensation to the families of 170 victims in the 1989 bombing of a UTA airliner over Niger.

Exact details on the compensation package were unavailable, but it is expected to be much higher that the original $35 million Libya originally agreed to pay in 1999. The French government demanded additional compensation for the UTA victims after Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to families of the 270 victims of the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

France had threatened to use its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block the lifting of the Libyan sanctions if the UTA case were not resolved to its satisfaction. The U.N. sanctions were imposed in 1992 and 1994 to compel Libya to cooperate in the Lockerbie investigation.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin indicated that France would no longer oppose the lifting of the sanctions, clearing the way for a U.N. vote, perhaps as early as Friday. However the vote will have no bearing on America's own sanctions against the country, which include a ban on Libyan oil sales to the United States.

The lifting of the U.N. sanctions would be a largely symbolic, but still meaningful end to the country's status as an international pariah. The sanctions were suspended in 1999 after Libya turned over two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing for trial.

One of those suspects is currently serving a life sentence in Scotland, and a 1999 trial in France found six Libyans, including Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi's brother-in-law, guilty in absentia of involvement in the UTA bombing.