UN to Vote to Lift Sanctions on Libya Over Lockerbie Bombing

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UNITED NATIONS - The Security Council plans to vote Tuesday to lift more than a decade of sanctions against Libya, but France could block the long-awaited deal to settle the Lockerbie bombing case.

Libya agreed to a US$2.7 billion compensation deal on Aug. 15 for the families of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland and acknowledged responsibility for the attack. The deal will give each victim's family US$5 million to US$10 million, a settlement that embarrassed France, which settled for much less in a similar case.

The French government settled with Libya in 1999 for just US$33 million to be shared by families of the 170 people killed in the bombing of a UTA flight over Niger in 1989 - giving relatives of each victim about US$194,000. When French families learned of the Lockerbie settlement they demanded more money. Paris has demanded that Libya come up with a fairer compensation deal and has threatened to veto the lifting of sanctions unless it does.

Francoise Rudetzki, who advises the French families, told The Associated Press on Monday that the families are still waiting for an offer from Libya and want the vote put off. "What we hope is that the vote will be a little bit more delayed to obtain a settlement, and if the British insist on calling for a vote, we hope that France will veto the resolution" as Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin promised the families, said Rudetzki, who works with the Paris-base organization S.O.S. Attentats, S.O.S. Terrorisme.

The sanctions were imposed in 1992 to force Moammar Gadhafi's government to surrender two men wanted in the 1988 Pan Am bombing. The sanctions - a ban on arms sales and air links with Libya - were indefinitely suspended in 1999 after the two Libyans were handed over for trial, but Libya has pressed for the embargoes to be lifted - not just suspended - to restore its standing in the international community.

Britain and the United States have said Libya has met all the requirements to lift the strictures, though Security Council diplomats say the United States may abstain rather than vote "yes" to lift sanctions. Britain's UN Ambassador Emry Jones Parry, president of the Security Council for September, said on Monday that the council planned a vote Tuesday morning on the resolution ending sanctions.

The vote "will mean closure, it will mean coming to terms, accepting that the positions of the council have been met," Jones Parry told journalists. If the resolution is approved, the ban on arms sales and air links would end immediately.

The 270 Lockerbie families will be paid US$4 million each when UN sanctions against Libya are lifted. If the United States lifts its own sanctions against Libya, the families will receive another US$4 million and if Libya is removed from the U.S. State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism they will get an additional US$2 million.

If the United States refuses, each Lockerbie family will get an additional US$1 million after October. A Scottish court convicted Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi of the bombing in 2001 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. A second Libyan was acquitted.

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