Page last updated at 18:20 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Libyans 'unlikely' to compensate

DUP MP Nigel Dodds described the meetings as 'a positive first step'

A lawyer who advised Libya during the Lockerbie compensation case has said it is unlikely victims of the IRA in Northern Ireland will be compensated.

Saad Jabbar, an international lawyer, said there was no legal basis "as far as Libya is concerned to force it to make any form of compensation".

Mr Jabbar spoke to the BBC on Tuesday after a delegation of NI MPs travelled to Libya at the weekend.

Their meetings with Libyan officials were described as "positive".

Colonel Gadaffi's regime supplied the IRA with arms during the Troubles.

Hailing their mission a success, two DUP MPs from a cross-party group pressing for compensation for victims said negotiations had "come a long way but remain a work in progress".

In a statement, Jeffrey Donaldson and Nigel Dodds said the Libyans were serious about engagement.

The delegation presented a number of demands including Libyan investment in business and infrastructure, wide-ranging community development projects and "resolution of existing claims by UK citizens involving Libya".

"We emphasised the great importance of the proposal as a new and innovative means of giving such closure to the past and providing a firm foundation for future progress in Northern Ireland," the DUP statement said.

Mark Simpson
Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland correspondent

As with all diplomatic negotiations, actions speak louder than words.

And in spite of all the upbeat sound-bites about the three-day trip to Tripoli, there is no sign yet of Colonel Gaddafi getting out his chequebook.

There is speculation that Libya is being asked to contribute up to £1bn in a complex financial package which would directly compensate families taking legal action against Libya, and at the same time be part of a wider peace and reconciliation fund.

It would be a big cheque - but how big would the political rewards be for Libya?

That is the issue Gaddafi and his advisers are weighing up.

Mr Jabbar said there was no way to assume that Libya would pay compensation.

"This is going to be a very hard matter for Libya to respond to," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"I think Libya are going to play hard. If they wanted to pay compensation they would do it.

"At the moment it is the matter of a voluntary action. Libya is under no political pressure, either internationally or regionally to do so.

"He (Colonel Gaddaffi) is a master politician in terms of reading the situation, he will give up when he knows he is going to lose, but he will never give up when he knows he is not going to lose. He is a winner."

The DUP statement said the Libyan authorities were "ready to consider" their proposals.

"We have come a long way so far but this remains a work in progress and we do not expect an immediate result," it continued.

"By agreeing to participate, Libya and its leader, Colonel Gaddafi, would confirm a new and very important role for Libya in international relations and on the humanitarian world stage."

The delegation met the mayor of Tripoli, the Libyan minister for Europe and the Speaker of the General Peoples Congress during the visit.

On Monday, the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli suggested comments in September by Colonel Gadaffi's son, Saif al-Islam, that he would resist calls for compensation suggested the delegation had little chance of success.

She said from a diplomacy point of view, Libya could not refuse to meet a delegation of British parliamentarians.

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