/ 7 September 2009

Libya rules out payments to IRA victims’ families

Libya will not pay compensation to the families of people killed by Irish republican bombs they say were made using Libyan-supplied explosives, the son of the north African country’s leader Moammar Gadaffi said.

Saif al-Islam said Libya would fight any claims in the courts, putting him at odds with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said he would support the compensation claims.

”Anybody can knock at our door and ask for money. But you go to the court, we have lawyers,” Saif told Sky News.

British lawyer Jason McCue, who represents the families of Irish Republican Army (IRA) victims, said he was prepared to take the compensation claims to court, but hoped a deal could be reached without legal action.

”Everyone realises in litigation that a settlement is the best way to go and I am sure Libya will realise that is the best way for Anglo-Libyan relations,” he told BBC radio.

Defence analysts say Libya shipped assault rifles, plastic explosives and surface-to-air missiles in the 1980s and 1990s to guerrillas fighting to end British rule of Northern Ireland.

UK, Libya under spotlight
Britain’s improving relations with Libya have come under close scrutiny following the early release of a former Libyan agent convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing in which 270 people were killed.

The United States government condemned the decision to free Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Brown’s opponents have questioned whether he pressured the Scottish government to release him in order to help Britain’s business interests, a charge he denies.

Saif accused politicians in the US and Britain of ”disgusting behaviour” over the Lockerbie case.

”They are trying to use this human tragedy … for their own political agenda,” he told Sky News. ”It is completely immoral.”

With a British election due within a year, politicians have used the case to advance their own cause, Saif added.

The row over ties with Libya, coupled with a rising death toll in Afghanistan, have made for a turbulent return to work for Brown after his summer holiday. Britain is mired in recession and the prime minister has only a few months to turn around his poll ratings before the election.

Gaddafi’s son angered the US and relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing by accompanying al-Megrahi to a warm welcome on his arrival home in Tripoli.

Saif defended his handling of al-Megrahi’s arrival, saying: ”You have to greet the crowds. They have been waiting there for many hours. Plus, this man isn’t a criminal. I believe 100% that he is innocent.” — Reuters