Donaldson says Libyan deal not in danger over bomber

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EFFORTS TO strike a $2 billion compensation deal with Libya for supplying arms and explosives to the IRA will not be stalled by the controversy over the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, according to DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

Questions have been raised as to whether al-Megrahi’s release could threaten the potential Libyan deal over supplying the IRA.

Any compensation deal is likely to require the explicit or implicit support of the US administration such are the diplomatic sensitivities between Washington and London over claims that al-Megrahi was released to facilitate BP oil deals with Libya. But Mr Donaldson moved yesterday to dampen any suggestions that the compensation deal might be jeopardised by the controversy.

“Gradual progress is being made towards obtaining financial redress for those who suffered as the result of Libya supplying the IRA terror campaign,” said Mr Donaldson, who is part of a group, supported by the British foreign office, in negotiations with Col Gadafy’s administration in Tripoli.

“Work is ongoing and we will not be deflected by the reignited fury in the United States about the release of Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi. We do not anticipate this understandable US reaction impacting on the campaign however,” he told The Irish Times.

“A dedicated foreign office unit has been instigated and the UK embassy in Tripoli is now involved. I am conscious that these are very sensitive matters. Satisfactory resolution will be complex and greatest progress will be achieved through ongoing private discussions,” added Mr Donaldson.

Libya supplied the IRA with arms and some three tonnes of the Semtex which was used in several devastating attacks. Last November, a political delegation supporting the compensation campaign travelled to Tripoli to meet senior Libyan politicians. Its members were Mr Donaldson, deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds, Lord Bew – former adviser to the ex-Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble – Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay and Lord Brennan QC.

London-based solicitor Jason McCue, who also acts for many of the Omagh families, is involved in a legal case against Libya on behalf of over 150 people who lost relatives in IRA attacks using the Semtex explosives. These include relatives of the 11 people killed the Enniskillen bombing in 1987 and the six people killed in the Harrods bombing in London in 1983.

There was scepticism that such lobbying and legal action would prompt any positive reaction from Tripoli. But senior sources have reported considerable progress in recent months with the prospect of Libya being amenable to a $2 billion compensation deal.

Using the payments Libya has already made to the Lockerbie bomb victims, people named on the writ could each receive up to $5 million. Libya may also provide more general supports like trade deals with the North that could make the overall deal worth up to $2 billion.

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