TRIPOLI, Libya | Libya and the United States settled all outstanding lawsuits by American victims of terrorism on Thursday, clearing the way for the full restoration of diplomatic relations.
There were 26 pending lawsuits filed by American citizens against Libya for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and other attacks, said a senior Libyan government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details of the deal had not been publicly announced. He said there were also three outstanding lawsuits filed by Libyan citizens for U.S. air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that Libyans say killed 41 people, including leader Moammar Gadhafi’s adopted daughter.
“The agreement is designed to provide rapid recovery of fair compensation for American nationals with terrorism-related claims against Libya,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. “It will also address Libyan claims arising from previous U.S. military actions. The agreement is being pursued on a purely humanitarian basis and does not constitute an admission of fault by either party.”
The settlement completes a nearly five-year effort to rebuild ties between the two countries.
The agreement will be followed by a U.S. upgrading of relations with Libya including the opening of an embassy in Tripoli, the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador and a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the end of the year. It will also allow direct U.S. aid. The agreement also gives immunity to the Libyan government from any further terror-related lawsuits, the Libyan government official said.
The mother of one of the Lockerbie victims called the settlement a “triumph for terrorism.”
The U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Libya from 1980 until late 2003, when Col. Gadhafi pledged to abandon his weapons of mass destruction programs, stop exporting terrorism and compensate the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing and other attacks.
After that, the nation that once was a global pariah was given a reprieve from U.N., U.S. and European sanctions, removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and allowed a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
The last hurdle was over compensation for Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the Lockerbie attack and the 1986 bombing of La Belle discotheque in Berlin, which killed two American soldiers. The disco attack prompted President Reagan to order the 1986 air strikes on Libya.
Libya has paid the 268 families involved in the Pan Am settlement $8 million each, but was withholding an additional $2 million it owed each of them because of a dispute over U.S. obligations in return.
The main Libyan lawsuit was filed by 45 families of those killed in the 1986 air strikes. There are two other cases pending related to other incidents.