- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

BERLIN — Libya agreed yesterday to pay $35 million to some victims of a bloody terror bombing at a Berlin disco nearly two decades ago, taking another step in Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s effort to rebuild relations with the West.

The deal, coming after much larger settlements for the bombings of two U.S. and French airliners, does not cover 169 American victims, including two soldiers who died in the blast at the La Belle disco on April 5, 1986. Attorneys are seeking separate compensation for them in U.S. courts.

German lawyers and officials of a Libyan foundation run by Col. Gadhafi’s son agreed to the settlement, which deals with 163 non-U.S. citizens, including Germans who were wounded and the family of a Turkish woman killed by the bomb.

“I’m pleased with this fair compromise,” German lawyer Ulrich von Jeinsen said after the agreement was sealed at a Berlin hotel.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli welcomed the accord, but he emphasized that the claims of U.S. victims also must be met.

“We’ve made it clear to the Libyans in numerous meetings … that this is an issue of importance to us, and we are following it closely, and we think it needs to be resolved,” Mr. Ereli said.

After the deal was announced, the German government said that it hoped to improve relations with Libya and that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would visit Libya soon.

Libyan Ambassador Said Abdulaati called the accord “a step forward for the relations of Libya to Germany and the European Union.” But he told Associated Press Television News that Libya did not accept guilt for the disco bombing, calling the settlement “a humanitarian gesture.”

Libya’s government did accept responsibility last year for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 persons, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation.

On Jan. 9, Libya signed a $170 million compensation agreement with families of victims of a French UTA passenger jet that was blown up over West Africa in 1989. The 170 killed include 54 French citizens and seven Americans, including the wife of a U.S. ambassador.

In another step toward ending its status as an international pariah, Col. Gadhafi’s regime renounced weapons of mass destruction in December and allowed international inspectors to visit its arms stockpiles.

Col. Gadhafi was visited by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in March, and the Libyan leader traveled to the European Union’s headquarters in April.

Under the disco bombing settlement, the slain woman’s family is expected to get $1 million. Persons who were seriously injured will get $350,000 each and those with lesser injuries will receive about $190,000 each, attorney Stephan Maigne said.

The disco was a favorite hangout of American soldiers during the Cold War. In retaliation for the bombing, President Reagan ordered U.S. air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi that killed 41 persons, including an adopted daughter of Col. Gadhafi, and wounded 226.

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