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French negotiators push for agreement with Libya before Friday deadline

SHARE French negotiators push for agreement with Libya before Friday deadline

PARIS — French negotiators said Wednesday they were hopeful about reaching a new compensation deal with Libya over a 1989 airliner bombing before the U.N. Security Council's Friday deadline.

The council planned to vote Tuesday on a resolution lifting decade-old U.N. sanctions against Libya, but France threatened to use its veto if Libya did not agree to a new deal over the UTA airliner bombing that killed 170 people. The council now says it will hold the vote Friday whether a deal is reached or not.

Negotiator Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, whose father was killed in the UTA airliner bombing, said a deal was close.

"It may not be a final accord, but at least an agreement in principle that could be acceptable for the families," he said.

The United States and Britain have pressed to end the sanctions since Aug. 15, when Libya agreed to a $2.7 billion compensation deal for families of those killed in the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and acknowledged responsibility for the attack. The deal would pay up to $10 million to the families of each of the 270 victims.

That deal embarrassed France because its negotiators agreed with Libya in 1999 to a $33 million compensation package for the UTA bombing over Niger — giving relatives of each victim about $194,000.

Denoix de Saint Marc said families of only 50 of the 170 victims shared about $11 million, with the rest of the money going to companies involved in the deal.

France said Sept. 1 that negotiators had the foundations of a new agreement, and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi also announced a deal. But negotiations since have faltered.

Denoix de Saint Marc said disagreements between the Libyans were holding up an agreement.

"I think there are internal reasons with them that are creating these difficulties," he said.

A French anti-terrorism court convicted Gadhafi's brother-in-law and five other Libyans in absentia in 1999 over the bombing and sentenced them to life in prison.

Britain and the United States say Libya has met requirements to fully lift U.N. sanctions — a ban on arms sales and air links with Libya — that were suspended indefinitely in 1999 after two Libyans sought in the Lockerbie bombing were handed over for trial.

The United States has said it will maintain its own sanctions and keep Libya on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Those sanctions keep most Americans from traveling to Libya and bar U.S. oil companies from doing business there.