Libya signs UTA bombing payout

Libya has signed a payout deal worth $170m with the relatives of 170 victims of the bombing of a French airliner in 1989. Representatives of a fund run by the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi met with the families in Paris to discuss the plan, although Libya has always denied involvement in the attack on the UTA plane.

The plane which exploded in mid air over the Sahara desert in the West African state of Niger killed 170 people of over a dozen nationalities. The settlement means each family will receive $1m in compensation .

The settlement is the latest in Libya’s efforts to try and mend relations with the West and follows its unexpected abandonment of its nuclear weapons programme last month. Tripoli has also since allowed the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities.

Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc who lost his father in the attack and who helped lead the negotiations said “This accord shows that Libya is changing, has changed. We’re happy to have succeeded.”

The $170m deal however is far smaller than the $2.7bn promised by Libya to families of the 270 people that were killed when Pan AM flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. Mr Denoix de Saint-Marc said the amount actually received by the families of the Lockerbie victims will not differ greatly to those of UTA as most of $2.7bn will go towards legal fees and taxes.

Despite the conviction of six Libyan officials in absentia by a French court in 1999, Tripoli still protests its innocence and refused to extradite the six which included the brother in law of Colonel Gaddafi, but did however agree to pay $33m demanded in compensation. This amount was later deemed unacceptable after the settlement of the Lockerbie deal and France now demanded a higher sum for the victims of the UTA bombing.

France, which lost 54 of its nationals in the attack then threatened to block a UN resolution ending sanctions against Libya over the Lockerbie bombing unless it agreed a similar deal for compensation for the UTA attack. Libya then warned it would pull out of talks over the UTAcompensation after France failed to honour a secret agreement to compensate over the killing of 3 Libyan pilots when France got involved in the civil war in Chad.

Both countries later retracted their threats and the settlement was agreed.

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