Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Libya hints at Lockerbie pay-out

[This is the headline over a report that appeared on the BBC News website on this date in 2002. It reads in part:]

Libya has said it is willing in principle to pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people in 1988.

Speaking after talks between Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, Libya's foreign minister said the government also wanted to formalise relations with the United States.

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is serving life in a Scottish prison after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Gaddafi had also "said the right things" on a range of issues, including the fight against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has never admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.

In June, Colonel Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, said he believed the Libyan Government would pay compensation, but not say it was responsible for the bombing.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said that Libya was discussing the issue of responsibility, and was "ready to get rid of this obstacle".

Mr Chalgam spoke of Libya's desire to improve relations not only with Britain but with the US.

"We have to extend and expand our bilateral relations with Britain and also we are completely keen to arrive at reconciliation and normalisation with the US," he said.

The meeting between Colonel Gaddafi and Mr O'Brien was the first time since 1983 that a UK minister had met the Libyan leader.

After three hour of talks at Sirte, a coastal town about 320km (200 miles) east of Tripoli, Mr O'Brien was cautiously optimistic. (...)

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam, for his part, stressed his government's willingness to cooperate in the fight against al-Qaeda.

"The fundamentalists are against our project," he said. "They are against the freedom of women, they are against technology."

Libya had shown its desire to move from "pariah" to a state complying with international law by handing over the Lockerbie bomb suspects, said Mr O'Brien.

The UK was keen to boost ties that have been cautiously improving since diplomatic relations were restored three years ago.

Libya is keen to re-enter the world economy and the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts.

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