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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Libya hints at Lockerbie pay-out
Memorial to victims of the Lockerbie bombing
The 1988 bombing claimed 270 lives
Libya has said it is willing in principle to pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people in 1988.

They have made promises and we will look at whether they deliver

Mike O'Brien
UK Foreign Office Minister
Speaking after talks between Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien, Libya's foreign minister said the government also wanted to formalise relations with the United States.

Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is serving life in a Scottish prison after being convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Gaddafi had also "said the right things" on a range of issues, including the fight against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Owning up?

Libya has never admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.

In June, Colonel Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, said he believed the Libyan Government would pay compensation, but not say it was responsible for the bombing.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan leader
Libya has never admitted responsibility
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said that Libya was discussing the issue of responsibility, and was "ready to get rid of this obstacle".

Mr Chalgam spoke of Libya's desire to improve relations not only with Britain but with the US.

"We have to extend and expand our bilateral relations with Britain and also we are completely keen to arrive at reconciliation and normalisation with the US," he said.

The meeting between Colonel Gaddafi and Mr O'Brien was the first time since 1983 that a UK minister had met the Libyan leader.

'Inspectors welcome'

After three hour of talks at Sirte, a coastal town about 320km (200 miles) east of Tripoli, Mr O'Brien was cautiously optimistic.

He told the BBC that Mr Gaddafi had said "the right things on a range of issues" - including arms control and terrorism.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (l) greets UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien
Libya wants to normalise relations with the west
"But we've got to be sure that Libya is going to deliver on what he is promising," Mr O'Brien added.

Mr O'Brien said Tripoli was prepared to sign up to 20 international conventions relating to weapons of mass destruction and is further considering signing others - including the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Mr O'Brien also said Libya expressed willingness to considering inspections of suspected nuclear sites

In May, US Under Secretary of State John Bolton accused Libya of trying to re-establish its "offensive chemical weapons ability".

He also said the country "may be capable of producing small quantities of biological agent" and was still seeking nuclear weapons.

Target for militants

Regarding the fight against terrorism, Mr O'Brien said the UK authorities were already cooperating with the Libyans.

"They know they are as much at risk from the extremists of al-Qaeda as any western country is," he said.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi
A Libyan is serving a life sentence for the bombing

"They have made promises and we will look at whether they deliver on this," Mr O'Brien added.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam, for his part, stressed his government's willingness to cooperate in the fight against al-Qaeda.

"The fundamentalists are against our project," he said. "They are against the freedom of women, they are against technology."

Libya had shown its desire to move from "pariah" to a state complying with international law by handing over the Lockerbie bomb suspects, said Mr O'Brien.

The UK was keen to boost ties that have been cautiously improving since diplomatic relations were restored three years ago.

Libya is keen to re-enter the world economy and the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts.

Sanctions against Libya have been suspended but Colonel Gaddafi wants them lifted permanently.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Colonel Gaddafi is slowly coming in from the cold"
Bob Monetti, father of one Lockerbie victim
"Gaddafi does a lot of things for show"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic


Appeal concludes

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See also:

07 Aug 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Apr 02 | Scotland
16 Apr 02 | Scotland
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
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