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September 7, 2009

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Britain's dealings with Libya questioned

BRITAIN made no demands that Libya offer compensation for Britons killed by Libyan explosives supplied to Irish Republican terrorists for fear it could jeopardize ties with Tripoli, according to new documents released yesterday.

The revelation prompted accusations the UK government had acted to protect energy deals, and added to questions about whether trade ties influenced last month's decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Relatives of British victims of the IRA bombings were outraged to learn that Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to broach the compensation subject with Libya, particularly since American victims of IRA attacks have secured a separate compensation deal with Tripoli.

Brown says in two letters sent to British victims' lawyer Jason McCue last year and released by his office, however, that his government was motivated not by oil interests but by the need to cooperate in fighting terror. The letters were released after being alluded to in a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.

"You assert that the core reason for not entering into direct negotiations with Libya is that of trade," Brown told McCue in an October 7 letter. "I assure you that this is not the case. While the UK-Libya relationship does indeed include trade, bilateral cooperation is now wide-ranging on many levels, particularly in the fight against terrorism."

The letters concern Libya's role in supplying weapons and explosives to terrorists, including several tons of Semtex plastic explosive to the IRA in the 1980s and 90s.

Brown argues that bringing up compensation would be risky since Libya had turned over a new leaf - renouncing terrorism and dismantling its nuclear program.

But last week Libyan Secretary for International Co-operation Mohammed Siala told The Independent newspaper he was open to talking about the issue.


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