Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

Libya talks over IRA compensation

Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Mr Donaldson said a deal may not be reached this week

Libya will come under renewed pressure to compensate victims of IRA violence later when Northern Ireland politicians arrive in Tripoli for talks.

Colonel Gaddafi's regime secretly supplied the IRA with weapons and explosives in the 1980s.

Diplomatic relations between the UK and Tripoli have improved and there have recently been signs of a possible change in attitude over payments.

Three MPs and three members of the Lords are to meet officials.

The cross-party delegation is expected to meet Libya's minister for Europe and other officials and includes DUP MPs Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson said the visit was about getting recognition for the suffering of IRA victims.

"It's part of the legacy of the past and what we want to ensure is that we can draw a line over that and develop new relations with Libya," he said.

When they hear some of the stories, they might understand exactly what these weapons of mass destruction and Semtex have done
Manya Dickinson
Daughter of IRA victim

"Also [we have to] bring healing and reconciliation to people in Northern Ireland and indeed in other parts of the UK who also suffered."

Mr Donaldson said a deal may not be reached this week but that Colonel Gadaffi had said he believed agreement could be met.

Victims were keen to see a "substantial part" of any settlement put into a fund to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the wider UK.

Among them is Manya Dickinson, who was 10 when her father was killed when an IRA bomb detonated in County Down in 1990.

She told the BBC: "We're hoping that when [Libyan officials] hear some of the stories, they might understand exactly what these weapons of mass destruction and Semtex have done."

BBC Ireland Correspondent Mark Simpson said the fact that the Libyan government has agreed to see a British parliamentary delegation is seen as progress.

'Significant step'

While the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is not expected to meet them in person, his officials will be told a normalisation in relations can only take place if Libya faces up to the past, our correspondent said.

In 2003, the country took responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, which claimed 270 lives, mostly American. It also abandoned efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Five years later, Colonel Gaddafi reached a final compensation agreement with the US over Lockerbie and other bombings.

Lawyers for victims who have brought a case against Libya to court said in a statement: "The victims view this as a significant step forward, as well as recognition by both countries that their plight will not be overlooked as Anglo-Libyan relations develop.

"They sincerely hope that, following the parliamentarian team's visit, Libya will review its position toward them and appreciate that they wish to visit Libya in the spirit of peace and reconciliation."

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