Families of victims assured of at least $5 million each in settlement with Libya

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After waiting 15 years, the families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Scotland are likely to receive at least $5 million each, according to terms of a deal between Libya and a lawyer for several of the families.

Under the agreement reached Wednesday, Libya is to establish a bank account that will hold $2.7 billion in compensation for the families and take responsibility for the bombing plot carried out by a Libyan agent.

The agreement also could formally end U.N. sanctions against Libya after Libya admits responsibility for the terror attack in a letter to the United Nations.

The Bush administration will support a move in the U.N. Security Council to formally remove U.N. sanctions against Libya, a U.S. official said.

But U.S. sanctions against Libya will remain in effect, at least for now, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said Thursday that Libya must accept responsibility and pay compensation.

``Libya knows what it must do,'' Casey said. ``There are no short cuts. The bar will not be lowered.''

The victims' families were invited to the State Department for a briefing Friday with Assistant Secretary of State William Burns.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said the U.S. sanctions should be retained regardless of any financial settlement with the families.

``Libya, hoping to buy its way out of their responsibility for the deaths of so man innocents, expects to be welcomed back into the international community with open arms,'' said Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House International Relations Middle East subcommittee.

``The U.N. might decide that Libya is now absolved, but our policy cannot and will not be dictated by others,'' she said in a statement. ``Our policy toward the Libyan regime, including U.S. sanctions, must be maintained against this rogue state.''

Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who represented several of the families, said eliminating the U.N. sanctions was a ``foregone conclusion.'' That action would trigger payment of $4 million to each of the Flight 103 families.

Two other payments are conditional, however. If those two conditions aren't met, the agreement provides for an additional $1 million payment, ensuring each family gets at least $5 million.

But families could get up to $10 million if the U.S. lifts its sanctions and takes Libya off its list of nations that sponsor terror.

A $4 million payment depends on the end of U.S. sanctions, which have hurt the Libyan economy, particularly its oil industry.

And an additional $2 million payment would be delivered if Libya is removed from the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terror.

Zaid, in an interview, said he thought it would be ``very unlikely'' that U.S. sanctions would be lifted or that Libya would be stricken from the terror list in the next year.

The U.S. sanctions punish Libya in various ways, imposing restrictions on travel by Libyan officials and business with the North African country.

The State Department, in an annual report issued last April, said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's past record of terrorism continued to hinder his efforts to shed Libya's pariah status.

However, the report noted that last year Libya became a party to a 1999 international agreement designed to curb financing of terrorism and was a party to all 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon, Gadhafi has tried ``to identify Libya with the war on terrorism and the struggle against Islamic extremism,'' the report said.

Sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 1992 were suspended in 1999 after Libya handed over two agents indicted for the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, for trial.

But under the U.N. resolution, the ban on arms sales and air links to Libya cannot be lifted permanently until Libya acknowledges responsibility for the bombing, pays fair compensation, renounces terrorism and discloses all it knows about the explosion.

The plane was blown up after taking off from London en route to the United States. Most of those killed were Americans.