Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 11:49 UK

Libya 'surprise' at pay-out row

Gordon Brown and Col Gaddafi
Mr Brown and Muammar Gaddafi met at the G8 talks in July

A senior Libyan diplomat has said there was "surprise" that the issue of compensation for victims of the IRA has been raised again.

Libya provided arms and explosives to the IRA in the 1980s.

Speaking on Al-Jazeera TV Abd al-Ati al-Ubaydi said the British government had been told some time ago that it "was not open for discussion."

He said "domestic political pressures" on Gordon Brown had led to the compensation issue being raised again.

Libya has paid compensation to US victims of Libya-backed terrorism.

Last year Gordon Brown wrote to the UK victims' lawyer saying it would not be "appropriate" for the government to push Libya to compensate them.

However, on Sunday he said a government unit was being set up to help them.


Mr Al-Ubaydi, who is European affairs coordinator in the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said British officials had already raised this issue while the Libyans were negotiating the settlement with the Americans but were told the issue would not be discussed.

"We are surprised that this issue is raised 20 years later and after Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland reached an agreement and formed a government," he added.

He said that 20 years ago, during the embargo imposed on Libya, they had discussed the country's past relations with the IRA and clarified their position.

"They sent me a letter in which they thanked Libya for cooperating," he continued.

"Their main concern then was to secure our cooperation in order to reach a settlement between rivals in Northern Ireland. This is not a new position."

The interview, which was conducted in Arabic on Monday, was translated by BBC Monitoring.

On Tuesday Downing Street and Foreign Office officials met the families of IRA victims at Number 10 discuss the support they will receive from the government in pursuing their compensation claims from Libya.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said it was a very positive meeting that lasted 45 minutes.

The families' lawyer Jason McCue attended the meeting as well.

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