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August 7, 2002, Libya Ready To Pay Lockerbie Compensation

Libya said Wednesday it was ready in principle to pay compensation for the 1988 airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people and to address U.N. demands it accept responsibility for the attack.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam, speaking after ground-breaking talks between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Britain's junior Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, also said Libya wanted to formalize relations with the United States. "Regarding compensation, as a principle, yes we are going to do something on that topic," Chalgam told reporters after the talks with Gaddafi. "Regarding responsibility, we are discussing this issue ... we are ready to get rid of this obstacle," he said.

British officials said the comments represented the clearest public declaration so far that Libya was prepared to meet conditions for the lifting of sanctions imposed over its involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. The talks launched a new era in relations with the North African state which for years London said backed terrorism.

Chalgam also spoke of Libya's desire to improve relations not only with Britain but with the United States. "We have to extend and expand our bilateral relations with Britain and also we are completely keen to arrive at reconciliation and normalization with the U.S," he said.

O'Brien stressed to them that Libya needed to ensure full compliance with United Nations resolutions calling for Libya to accept responsibility and pay compensation to families of the victims of the bombing over Lockerbie. The Sirte talks with Gaddafi cap a cautious re-engagement between the former foes after years of hostility following the fatal shooting of a British policewoman outside Libya's London embassy, British-backed U.S. raids on Libya and the Lockerbie bombing.

"It is more likely that Libya will move away from international terrorism if it is part of the international community, and that is why I am meeting Colonel Gaddafi," he said. He rejected a comparison between Libya and Iraq, the subject of much speculation about a possible U.S.-led invasion, saying Gaddafi was clearly moving toward compliance with international law while Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not.

United Nations sanctions on Libya were suspended after the surrender of two Libyans suspected of the Lockerbie bombing and several European countries have since begun strengthening ties with Tripoli.

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