- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The Libyan government has settled a federal lawsuit with the District’s water authority in a dispute involving more than $27,000 in outstanding bills.

The settlement allows Libyan officials to move ahead with plans to open an embassy in Northwest.

Libya had sued the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) earlier this month and demanded that the utility restore water and sewer service at its property at 2201 Wyoming Ave. NW.

The settlement was reached Tuesday after The Washington Times first reported the dispute.

The lawsuit, which accused WASA of violating a provision of the Vienna Convention, sought $1 million and the immediate restoration of water and sewer service.

“The Libyan government is pleased with the resolution of the WASA case and looks forward to restoring warm and friendly relations with the American people,” said J.P. Szymkowicz, an attorney for the Libyan government.

WASA spokeswoman Michele Quander-Collins said the settlement calls for the Libyan government to pay “a nominal fee” that is significantly less than the $27,710 in outstanding bills.

Miss Quander-Collins said WASA agreed to the deal late Tuesday after meeting with attorneys for the Libyan government who provided information about “mitigating factors.”

“We examined the information they provided, as well as our own records, and decided to settle,” Miss Quander-Collins said, adding that WASA also discovered that a water leak may have caused the bills to run high.

She said WASA is pleased with the settlement.

“WASA certainly doesn’t want to interfere in world affairs,” Miss Quander-Collins said.

The Libyan government had said it should not have to pay the bills because squatters stayed at the site illegally for several years, though WASA records showed water usage at the property for an account in the name of the Libyan government.

The settlement requires WASA to restore water and sewer service to the building where the Libyan government is planning to open an embassy on U.S. soil for the first time since 1981.

During the years Libya had no embassy in the District, the United Arab Emirates took control of the property.

D.C. court records show that the United Arab Emirates assigned a driver to live at the property to keep it from being continually vandalized, but the driver rented out rooms without permission from Libya or the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates evicted the tenants in 2003 and ordered water service shut off.

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