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New deal on UTA bombing

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Gadhafi: "What matters to us is honor. We don't care about money."

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- France and Libya have reached a tentative deal to increase compensation for the families of 170 people killed in the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner.

French President Jacques Chirac's office said the families now must decide whether to accept Libya's new offer.

But a spokesman for SOS-Attentats, an organization representing the families, said there were other issues to settle in addition to money and talks with officials in Tripoli were continuing.

If they do accept the offer, the French government sees no need to veto a draft British resolution lifting U.N. sanctions against Libya, Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said Monday.

Those sanctions are already suspended. But unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S. would remain in place.

Colonna confirmed that Chirac spoke with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during the weekend about the proposal.

Earlier Monday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told French RFI radio: "The basis of an accord has been found, it remains to be finalized and that is what will be done in the next few hours."

Neither Libya nor the families have disclosed the terms of the new offer. Gadhafi said Sunday he had agreed to increase compensation for the UTA families.

In a televised nationwide address Sunday, Gadhafi said he had spoken with Chirac and that a deal had been reached.

"The problem of the UTA case is over," he said. "We are opening a new page in our relations with the West."

Although Libya never admitted responsibility for the UTA bombing, it paid victims' families $34 million in 1999 after a French court convicted six Libyans in absentia over the terrorist attack.

The UTA DC-10 blew up over the Niger desert in Africa on September 19, 1989.

A French court convicted six Libyans, including Gadhafi's brother-in-law, in absentia for the UTA bombing.
A French court convicted six Libyans, including Gadhafi's brother-in-law, in absentia for the UTA bombing.

The push for more compensation for UTA victims came after Libya announced last month a $2.7 billion deal for relatives of victims of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Under the Lockerbie deal, those families would receive between $5 million and $10 million per passenger -- a significantly higher amount than the UTA compensation.

In Gadhafi's speech -- which marked the anniversary of the 1969 coup that brought him to power -- he did not admit Libya's guilt in either bombing, instead saying his country had been blamed because of disputes with Britain and France in the 1970s and 1980s.

After Libya agreed to the Lockerbie deal and accepted responsibility for the bombing, Britain moved to end U.N. sanctions on Libya as part of the deal.

But France threatened to block the move unless Tripoli increased payouts for the UTA bombing.

Gadhafi said his country was compelled to pay the compensation so sanctions could be lifted and Libya removed from a list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

"Is it about money? What can we do with money? Is it not to defend our country? What matters to us is honor. We don't care about money," he said.

-- CNN Correspondent Jim Bittermann contributed to this report


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