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Libya 'ready to pay' for Lockerbie

Gadhafi held talks with UK Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien  

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya is ready "in principle" to pay compensation for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, British officials said after a three-hour meeting between Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and a UK Foreign Office minister.

Tripoli is considering making an announcement that it accepts "general responsibility" for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people, Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien told the UK's Press Association after the talks.

"Libya gave a clear signal that it wants to put Lockerbie, as an issue, behind it," a British Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNN.

"At Col. Gadhafi's request, Mr. O'Brien set out, very clearly, the steps that Libya had to take for the lifting of sanctions. He reiterated the main points of the Security Council resolutions, making clear that these conditions must be met in full," the spokesman added.

Lockerbie appeal 

He added that Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam had said that as part of the process of fulfilling the remaining requirements, Libya was "in principle" willing to pay compensation, but the specifics of that offer had to be further addressed.

O'Brien said he had received a courteous welcome and described Wednesday's meeting as "serious," according to the spokesman.

Officials said both O'Brien and Gadhafi "were pleased that the relationship reached a point that allowed such a dialogue to take place."

British officials also quoted Chalgam as saying that Libya wanted to meet the requirement on the question of the acceptance of responsibility in a way that was acceptable to both Libya and the U.N. Security Council.

British officials said O'Brien underlined that "the latter was the ultimate test, and that all these issues would be carried forward in the trilateral dialogue with the United States."

A Libyan was found guilty of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing
A Libyan was found guilty of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing  

The acceptance of responsibility and readiness "in principle" to take steps to compensate the relatives of the 270 victims would pave the way for the formal lifting of U.N. sanctions against the former pariah state, which has spent almost two decades in international isolation.

O'Brien emerged from the talks telling PA that the Libyan leader had "said all the right things" about Lockerbie and the 1984 murder of UK policewoman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London.

He said Gadhafi had assured him of his willingness to co-operate with the international community on issues such as weapons of mass destruction and the war against terrorism.

The Libyans have given Britain intelligence information on fundamentalist terror groups, including a list of names of potential suspects, he told PA.

O'Brien told BBC2's Newsnight: "He said all the right things, but statements need to be put to the proof, particularly on issues like weapons of mass destruction.

"We are saying that all these statements are subject to proof and we have got to be sure that Libya is going to deliver on what it is promising."

Libya had got as far as considering the wording of a declaration of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, for which an official of the North African state, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, is currently serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail, said O'Brien.

"They are looking at a form of words which they can sign up to, and I hope that we will be able to agree that form of words, which will bring them into compliance and will show that they accept a general responsibility for the actions of their official Megrahi," he said.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Shalgam told PA: "Regarding compensation, as a principle, yes, we are going to do something on that topic.

"Regarding responsibility, we are discussing this issue. We are ready to get rid of this obstacle."

Families of Lockerbie victims welcomed the development.

Dr. Jim Swire, a spokesman for the UK Families Flight 103 Group, told Sky News: "This is the first time, I think, that an important member of the Libyan regime has made a comment like this.

"I think we should regard it as a significant step forward, but of course, paying compensation is only one of the things that Libya has to do if she wants to get the UN sanctions permanently removed."

O'Brien is the first British minister to visit Libya since 1984.

-- CNN producer Eden Pontz contributed to this report


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