WORLD / Africa

Pan Am Flight 103 families: Libya must pay
Updated: 2006-05-25 08:59

Families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 said Wednesday that Congress must ensure Libya abides by its agreement to pay the remainder of the $2.7 billion compensation owed to them.

Their plea comes a week after the Bush administration said the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Libya and remove it from a list of terrorism sponsors. In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of the 270 victims. Part has been paid, but the final $2 million installment to each family is outstanding. This portion was to be paid when Libya was removed from the list.

Kara Weipz, of Mount Laurel, N.J., president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said several families met Wednesday with State Department officials to plead their case but came away with no assurances. State Department officials did not return a telephone call for comment.

"No settlement will ever take away our grief or anger, but this settlement is the only form of justice meted against the Libyan regime," said Weipz, whose brother, Rick Monetti, was one of 35 Syracuse University students killed on the plane. They were returning home after studying in London.

A large number of victims were from New Jersey and New York, prompting lawmakers from the two states to join victims in calling for Libya to fulfill its agreement. New Jersey lost 38 victims, New York 58. Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., went to high school with one victim and a neighbor of Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., was killed on the plane when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., who served on President Reagan's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism that was formed after the bombing, introduced a resolution urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deny a Libyan diplomatic presence in the U.S. until the Libyan government has fulfilled its commitments. Rep. Robert Andrews (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., and Ferguson introduced a similar resolution in the House. The House resolution has been signed by more than six dozen congressmen.

The United States has not had formal diplomat relations with Libya since 1980. The move announced May 15 was the culmination of a process that began three years ago, when Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, agreed to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs.

There is a 45-day public comment period in progress regarding Libya's removal from the list of terrorism sponsors.