Lockerbie families renew calls for inquiry

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Indy Politics

Relatives of the Lockerbie bomb victims have renewed demands for a public inquiry into the tragedy, despite Libya's pledge to pay them up to £1.7bn in compensation.

The Foreign Office said yesterday that the United Nations Security Council will receive a request from Britain this week asking it to lift sanctions imposed on Libya in April 1992 for allegedly carrying out the atrocity. But the deal has met a mixed reaction from the relatives of the 270 dead. Some insisted that Col Muammar Gaddafi's admission of guilt still left significant questions about how the bombing happened unanswered.

In the United States, while some greeted the deal with relief, other relatives denounced the compensation as "blood money", claiming it was simply a "business deal" to allow Libya and the oil companies to resume trade.

Doubts also emerged yesterday that Libya will ever pay the full £1.7bn it is offering. Libya, which has only blamed its officials for the atrocity in its statement, has arranged to pay out £675m once UN sanctions are lifted.

The remaining instalments depend on the United States lifting its unilateral sanctions, and taking Libya off its list of terrorist states. However, Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, has made clear the US still views Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism. "Libya must take definitive action to assist in the fight against international terrorism," Mr Powell has said.

The Rev John Mosey, whose 19-year-old daughter Helga was on board Pan Am 103 when it blew up over Lockerbie on 23 December 1998, said he would accept the compensation but many families would continue to demand an independent investigation into the bombing.

"I hope the compensation brings closure," he said. "For many of us, it is almost a distraction to finding the truth about why this horrendous thing was allowed to happen in the face of 10 warnings. "

Dr Jim Swire, 67, whose daughter Flora was killed on the plane just before her 24th birthday, said: "Compensation is one part of a complicated process. It doesn't bring us any closer to the truth we have been fighting for for 15 years."

The Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane confirmed yesterday that Britain would table a fresh UN Security Council resolution lifting the sanctions.

"Libya has met the four obligations placed on it by the UN - it has accepted responsibility, met its obligations on compensation, renounced terrorism and has agreed to co-operate on any further investigation," he said.

Although this had great diplomatic significance, he added: "For the families of those who died at Lockerbie, their relatives can never be replaced. I hope, however, today brings some comfort."

Susan Cohen, an American whose daughter Theodora, 20, was killed, said she was too poor to refuse the money but added: "This is a business deal, a PR campaign for the Libyans. It's a slimy, disgusting thing."

Tam Dalyell, a veteran Lockerbie campaigner and the Labour MP for Linlithgow, was sceptical about Libya's guilt. "Gaddafi may be so desperate to get back into the international fold that he would come to this business deal. It doesn't follow that they did it. The issue remains, have we got the right people? There are many of us who doubt it."