Libya agrees bigger payout to bomb victims

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The Independent Online

Libya has agreed to increase compensation to families of the 170 people killed in the 1989 bombing of a French aircraft over Niger, according to a lawyer advising the north African state.

Saad Djebbar, a London-based lawyer who also worked with Libya on the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am American aircraft over Lockerbie, said "the deal was done" and terms would be announced today.

There was no immediate confirmation of a deal from French authorities or relatives of the victims of the attack on the UTA airliner. But the French Foreign Ministry said President Jacques Chirac had spoken yesterday to the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

France has been hoping that a deal could be struck to avoid a confrontation at the United Nations Security Council, where it has threatened to block a British resolution calling for an end to UN sanctions against Libya. The resolution was tabled after Libya accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. Libya agreed this month to pay $2.7bn (£1.7bn) to families of the Lockerbie victims.

Mr Djebbar said: "I am sure that if President Chirac picked up the phone today and told Colonel Gaddafi that France would not veto the resolution, or better still that it would vote for the resolution, that this will pave the way for better conditions for the families."

The Security Council appeared poised for a quick vote on lifting sanctions after the Lokerbie deal was reached, but delayed it while France made a last-minute demand for a supplement to the $34m compensation that Tripoli has paid the UTA victims. Libya never accepted blame for the UTA explosion, but agreed to pay compensation after France found its agents guilty.