Libyan, French bombing talks stall

Sunday, October 12, 2003

RABAT, Morocco -- Talks between Libya and the families of victims of a 1989 French airliner bombing have stalled despite a Saturday deadline, and President Jacques Chirac warned that relations would suffer if a deal for more compensation isn't made.

Libya had proposed $1 million for each family of the 170 people killed in the bombing of the French UTA airline DC-10 over Niger, but Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, a spokesman for the families, said the sum was too low.

Libya and the UTA families signed a framework accord Sept. 10 calling for a definitive compensation agreement within a month -- by Saturday. That was one factor in prompting the U.N. Security Council last week to lift 11-year-old sanctions against Libya, long seen as a rogue state sponsoring terrorism.

But Francoise Rudetzki, one of those involved in the talks, told The Associated Press that negotiations had stalled.

Abderaman Koulamallah, whose sister and five of her children were killed in the attack, said "France should take severe diplomatic measures" against Libya.

He said he remained convinced that a solution would be found. He said he believed that Libya's delay was due to organizational problems on its part, not a change of heart.

Chirac warned of the consequences if there is no agreement.

"I say this without aggression, but without weakness," Chirac told reporters at a press conference in Morocco. "I don't want to imagine that these promises won't be adhered to."

He added: "If by chance they were not, it would not be possible for that to not have consequences for (French and Libyan) relations."

An earlier partial deal, signed Sept. 10, cleared the way for a United Nations Security Council vote that lifted 11-year-old sanctions against Libya.

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

The extra compensation being sought by victims' families would be a follow-up to $33 million Libya already paid in the case.

The families, backed by the French government, demanded that Libya give more money after it agreed to pay far higher compensation -- $2.7 billion -- to relatives of the 270 victims of the 1988 downing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

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