Libya expected to sign compensation deal in bombing

Agreement set for today

additional payout could improve ties with France

January 09, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PARIS - Libya is expected to sign a deal today to pay additional compensation to the families of 170 people killed in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner, clearing the way for improved ties with France.

"We are trying to reach an accord for tomorrow," Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc told Reuters yesterday.

Denoix de Saint Marc's father was killed when the jet, belonging to the French air carrier UTA, blew up over the African nation of Niger.

The compensation dispute, which surfaced after Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, had threatened to block improvement of the country's relations with France.

Libya is engaged in a sweeping effort to rehabilitate its standing in the West after enduring decades of economic sanctions for its past support of militant organizations.

Libya admitted last month to having pursued a nuclear weapons program but said it had largely dismantled the program.

It has since allowed international inspectors into the country to verify that the program is defunct.

France's Foreign Ministry said Monday that the Libyan foreign minister, Abd al-Rahman Shalgam, would arrive in Paris today for talks with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, and a meeting with President Jacques Chirac.

Details of the deal to be signed today haven't been disclosed. It is expected to be less than the Lockerbie deal.

Libya has paid about $34 million in compensation in the UTA incident, for which six Libyans were convicted in absentia by a French court.

Reuters quoted a French official as saying Libya had agreed to pay an additional $170 million under the deal.

French-Libyan talks have foundered before on the eve of a deal.

In September the families signed a preliminary agreement with a private fund run by a son of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el Kadafi, only to have payment elude them.

Among the conditions Libya had tried to set was that the compensation funds be raised from French companies operating in Libya and that France pay compensation for three Libyan pilots killed by the French army in Chad in the 1980s.

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