Libya pressing for landmines payout

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Libya is pressing Britain for compensation for the deaths and injuries caused by thousands of landmines left behind by the British Eighth Army during its North African campaign fighting the Germans and Italians in North Africa in the Second World War.

The claims are among long-standing grievances first aired in the 1970s after Colonel Gaddafi overthrew the Western-backed King Idris.

Last year Italy agreed to pay Libya millions of pounds in compensation partly for those mutilated by mines laid by the Italian military. Libya wants Britain to follow suit and pay compensation as well as help with the ongoing mine-clearance operations.

A source close to the Libyan leader's son, Saif Gaddafi, said: "What British governments have failed to understand is that these claims are as much about Libyan pride as they are about compensation, they are a very proud nation and even injustices that may have taken place a long time ago still really matter."

UN reports show that between 1940 and 1975, 5,670 Libyans were killed and 4,935 injured by mines laid by countries taking part in the Second World War.

In a recent statement to the United Nations on the issue of mines the Libyans said: "Libya had nothing to do with the circumstance that led to the outbreak of the Second World War and should not continue to suffer the tragic consequences of that war. The countries that waged that war and brought it to our territory are responsible for the problems we face today as a result of their war and must assume responsibility for their actions.

"We would welcome a positive response, but any attempt to shirk this responsibility will not release these countries from their duty. There is no statute of limitation on such responsibilities and the countries concerned will continue to be held liable so long as innocent citizens continue to suffer or die as a result of their mines."