In a move that has irked Washington, Paris has demanded time to persuade Libya to come up with the $34.3 million the two countries accepted should be paid to the relatives of 170 people who died in the explosion aboard UTA Flight 772 over Niger.

If it fails to reach agreement, France says it will veto any UN-resolution seeking to lift international sanctions imposed against the North African state in 1992.

Flight 772 blew up 50 minutes into a flight from Ndjamena airport in Chad to Paris. Among the dead were seven Americans, including Bonnie Pugh, the wife of the US ambassador to Chad.

A subsequent investigation by French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere led in 1999 to the conviction in absentia of six Libyan intelligence officials.

Letter

In a letter delivered Friday to the Security Council Libya said it “accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials” in the bombing of the jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Tripoli intends to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million, to each victim’s family.

It was the first time Tripoli had admitted liability for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives. The letter from Libyan envoy Ahmed Own also pledged the country’s cooperation in the “international fight against terrorism” and “to refrain from becoming involved in any acts of terrorism”.

The letter confirmed Tripoli’s intention to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million. to each victim’s family. The money could be deposited into a special account as early as Tuesday, said Reuters.

In return the US and Britain have agreed to use their influence in the UN to lift sanctions. A draft resolution drawn up by Britain could be tabled in the Security Council as early as Monday 18 August.

Removing sanctions would now only have a symbolic effect on Libya which succeeded in having them suspended in 1999 for turning over two suspects, Abdel Basset al-Magrihi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, for trial for their alleged role in the bombing.

Megrahi, an intelligence agent, was convicted of the crime in 2001 by a special court in the Netherlands while Fahima was acquitted.

Of more concern to Libya are separate US sanctions, including a ban on imports of oil. Washington says it has no plans to remove them so long as it had concerns about Libya’s alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, its “destructive” role in African conflicts, and “its poor human rights record and lack of democratic institutions.”