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Paris veto averted; UN set to end Libya sanctions
( 2003-09-12 13:33) (Agencies)

Fifteen years after the bombing of Pan Am 103, the U.N. Security Council is set on Friday to lift U.N. sanctions against Libya, triggering the release of $2.7 billion to the families of the 270 people killed in the attack.

Council approval of a resolution lifting the sanctions slapped on Libya over the 1988 midair attack over Lockerbie, Scotland, was assured after France announced on Thursday it was withdrawing a threat to veto the measure.

Paris dropped the threat after relatives of the victims of a separate 1989 bombing of a French airliner won the promise of additional compensation from Tripoli.

The United States and Britain first called for adoption of the resolution last month, after Libya accepted blame for the Lockerbie bombing, renounced terrorism and agreed to put $2.7 billion into a special account for compensating the victims, capping 15 years of international pressure and negotiations.

The payment -- enough to provide up to $10 million to each of the Lockerbie families -- deeply embarrassed France, which accepted far less a few years ago for the midair attack on a French UTA airliner over the African nation of Niger that claimed 170 lives.

France then threatened to block the U.S.-British resolution unless it could get more money from Libya for the UTA victims.

That further irritated diplomatic ties already rubbed raw by France's successful fight to prevent London and Washington from winning advance U.N. approval for the war on Iraq.


Their patience wearing thin, Britain and the United States agreed to five separate delays in the sanctions vote before the UTA families' announcement their efforts had born fruit.

The UTA relatives came away with a promise from Libya rather than a definitive agreement, and are expected to end up with far less than the Lockerbie families.

Sources close to the talks previously indicated a sum between $500,000 and $1 million per family was discussed.

Libya has never officially accepted blame for the UTA bombing, but paid about $34 million in 1999 after a French court found six Libyans guilty in absentia for the attack.

The U.N. sanctions, including an air and arms embargo and a ban on some oil equipment and financial assets, were imposed in 1992 and 1994 to pressure Libya to cooperate in the probe into the Pan Am attack.

The United Nations suspended the sanctions in 1999 after Libya turned over two bombing suspects for trial, so the new resolution will have more symbolic than practical effect.

Washington was expected to abstain in Friday's vote for domestic political reasons, and has vowed to maintain its own separate sanctions, including a ban of Libyan oil sales to the United States.

Lifting of the U.N. sanctions will clear the way for an initial $4 million to be paid to each Lockerbie family.

The first payment would be followed by another $4 million if the United States eventually lifted its sanctions, and by $2 million more if Washington dropped Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

If Washington does not take those steps within eight months, the victims' families would receive just $1 million more, bringing total payments to $5 million per victim.

The remaining money would then revert to Libya.

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