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Libya agrees to pay more to families

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PARIS — The families of victims killed in a 1989 terrorist attack on a French airliner said on Monday that they had reached a preliminary agreement with Libya that would eventually provide extra financial compensation. The agreement clears the way for a U.N. vote on Friday to lift sanctions against the government of the Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

This week France forced a delay in the sanctions vote to give more time for negotiations over the settlement between the families and Libya and to keep pressure on Libya to pay additional compensation to the families of the 170 victims who died when a UTA airliner blew up over Niger. With the agreement signed on Thursday France said it would now support a vote on sanctions. Neither side would give any details of the agreement.

"France naturally has no more opposition to the U.N. Security Council voting for the lifting of sanctions against Libya as quickly as possible in New York," the foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said at a news conference on Thursday evening.

Libya had previously paid about $34 million to the UTA victims, but France objected last month when Gadhafi's government agreed to pay $2.7 billion to families of victims killed in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, arguing that the UTA families should get a comparable sum.

France has said that the UTA families received only $3,000 to $30,000 each because the airline and its insurer got the bulk of the earlier award. It said it would veto any resolution to lift the sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing until the country had satisfied the UTA families' demands for more equitable treatment.

Britain had pushed for a Security Council vote on the sanctions Tuesday, but the council put off action until Friday to give France and the UTA families more time. An affirmative vote would clear the way for the families of the 270 Lockerbie victims to begin receiving compensation from Libya, which could eventually reach $10 million for each family.

There was no mention on Thursday of a final compensation figure for the UTA families, and a joint statement by the families and the Libyan charity handling negotiations for the Libyan government simply affirmed the two sides' "common will to reach a definitive agreement."

France's effort to delay the sanctions vote in support of the UTA families had annoyed British and American diplomats, who said the French objections were raised late in the process and long after they had closed the UTA case and accepted Libya's earlier payments.

But de Villepin had said France was only doing what was fair to the families of the UTA victims, which included seven Americans and people from 16 other countries.

Libya is on a campaign to rid itself of its status as a rogue state that supported terrorism against the United States and Western Europe in the 1980s.