Libya and the United States have settled all outstanding lawsuits by American victims of terrorism, clearing the way for the full restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. There were 26 pending lawsuits filed by American citizens against Libya for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and other attacks. There were also three outstanding lawsuits filed by Libyan citizens for U.S. airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that Libyans say killed 41 people, including leader Moammar Gadhafi’s adopted daughter.
The settlement reached last month completes a nearly five-year effort to rebuild ties between the two countries. The agreement will be followed by a U.S. upgrading of relations with Libya including the opening of an embassy in Tripoli, the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador and a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the end of the year. It will also allow direct U.S. aid to the country. The settlement also gives immunity to the Libyan government from any further terror-related lawsuits, which is quite interesting.
The U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Libya from 1980 until late 2003, when Gadhafi pledged to abandon his weapons of mass destruction programs, stop exporting terrorism and compensate the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing and other attacks. After that, the nation was given a reprieve from U.N., U.S. and European sanctions, removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and allowed a seat on the U.N. Security Council. It sure looks like the Bush Administration has turned over a new leaf when it comes to nations that once were called “evil” and sponsored terrorism.
The last hurdle was over compensation for Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the Lockerbie attack and the 1986 bombing of La Belle discotheque in Berlin, which killed two American soldiers. As you may recall, the disco attack prompted former President Reagan to order the 1986 airstrikes on Libya, which did cause civilian deaths. Libya paid the 268 families involved in the Pan Am settlement $8 million each, but was withholding an additional $2 million it owed each of them because of a dispute over U.S. obligations in return. The main Libyan lawsuit was filed by 45 families of those killed in the 1986 airstrikes. There are two other cases pending related to other incidents. International institutions and foreign companies operating in Libya — including some American firms — will contribute to a fund to compensate the American and Libyan claimants.
The top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, David Welch, signed the agreement with Ahmed al-Fatouri, head of American affairs in Libya’s Foreign Ministry, in a ceremony before reporters and members of both delegations. Welch labeled the settlement a “historic agreement” and delivered a letter from President Bush to Gadhafi. It’s good to get this matter resolved so that all of the victims’ families can be compensated. It’s been a long wait!
Source: Associated Press
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