[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Sunday Times. It reads in part:]
The Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi is to pay up to £2 billion to victims of Irish terrorism for his role in supplying shiploads of explosives to the IRA.
About £800m will go directly to victims of the violence. First in line will be the 147 families of those caught in atrocities in which Semtex, the plastic explosive supplied by Libya, was used. (...)
A trade deal between Britain and Libya is also expected to be part of the historic settlement. Gadaffi is seeking to present the payment as a goodwill gesture and is not expected to admit liability.
Semtex supplied by Gadaffi’s regime was used by the IRA in at least 10 atrocities, including the bombing of Harrods in 1983 and Enniskillen in 1987. The Real IRA used it at Omagh in 1998, killing 29 people and injuring 220. It was used in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie, when 270 were killed, for which Libya has paid over £5m to each family.
The negotiations were given new impetus last September when The Sunday Times revealed that Gordon Brown was refusing to put Britain’s diplomatic muscle behind the victims’ claim against Libya for fear of harming trade.
A source close to the talks said: “Gadaffi can now make a major humanitarian gesture which will end the legal actions and build diplomatic and business relations with the UK.” (...)
An additional £314m could be added if the US government agrees to co-operate. This money is left over from an earlier $1.5 billion compensation package for American victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism, including the Lockerbie bombing. Families received more than £5m each and it is suggested that similar amounts can be paid to American victims of IRA terrorism, or Irish-born casualties who moved to America.
Politicians will be briefed on Wednesday about progress in the talks. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We believe success can be achieved through the direct contacts which we have helped establish between the campaign and the Libyan authorities.”