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September 8, 2009

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Britain will support lawsuit for Libya terrorism compensation

BRITAIN'S surprise decision to support a lawsuit against Libya by Irish Republican Army victims raised hopes yesterday that thousands who were maimed or lost loved ones in IRA bombings might receive compensation payments one day from the oil-rich nation.

Libya admits it shipped hundreds of tons of weaponry to the IRA in the mid-1980s, most critically the plastic explosive Semtex at the heart of the outlawed group's biggest and deadliest bombs. Lawyers say they expect the government of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi to pay 10 million pounds (US$16 million) to each member on their growing list of IRA victims.

"The fact is, if the Libyans hadn't provided the IRA with the Semtex, my son would be alive today," said peace campaigner Colin Parry, one of more than 150 litigants in the case initially filed in US courts in 2006 and currently in legal limbo. Parry's 12-year-old son and a 3-year-old boy were killed when the IRA bombed shops in Warrington in February 1993.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who has suffered withering criticism over Scotland's August 20 release of the only Libyan convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing - has been accused by IRA victims of failing to demand compensation for their suffering as part of the deal.

Brown announced on Sunday night his government would provide Foreign Office support for IRA victims who are seeking face-to-face meetings next month with Libyan leaders as they pursue their lawsuit either in Britain or Libya.

The British leader previously had refused such aid, citing Britain's overriding need to keep improving relations with Libya, a source for anti-terror intelligence tips and a base for growing British oil interests.

Gadhafi's son Saif responded that his government would permit the British lawsuit access to Libyan courts - but would mount a stern defense.

When asked if his father's government would reject compensation demands from IRA victims, Saif Gadhafi responded, "Of course."

Libya has already paid billions to victims of Libyan-sponsored bloodshed as part of its successful push since 2001 to end its diplomatic isolation.

Libya agreed in 2003 to pay more than US$2.1 billion in compensation for the 270 people killed in the December 1988 destruction of a civilian jet over Lockerbie.

In 2008, Libya paid US$1.5 billion into a fund to compensate US or Libyan victims of its terrorist activities. That fund covers the few Americans wounded or killed in IRA attacks.


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