France warns Libya over payoff delay

France is blaming Libya for holding up a compensation deal for a 1989 airline bombing, warning Paris could still use its veto to stop UN sanctions against Tripoli being lifted.

    Paris has threatened to veto the lifting of UN sanctions on Tripoli

    France has not received "sufficient guarantees" from Libya on behalf of the families of victims of the bombing of a French airliner over west Africa, warned Deputy Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier on Friday.

    Muselier, speaking on radio, said the French government hoped for "an agreement as rapidly as possible" with the Libyan side which would be "fair for all the victims and not just for the families of French victims".

    "We still don't have sufficient guarantees" to reach an accord and "if a vote comes before the (UN) Security Council right now, we would have to block it," he said.

    Families surprised

    Earlier on Friday, victims' families blamed Libya for holding up a compensation agreement that was close to being signed at the start of the week.

    Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, a spokesman for the families, said Libya had gone back on promises reached during negotiations in Tripoli at the weekend.

    Muammar Qadhafi had offered
    an improved deal last Sunday

    "We are all the more surprised by this blockage because (Libyan leader) Colonel (Muammar) Qadhafi said publicly on Sunday that the issue had been settled," he said. 
     
    Relatives of the 170 victims of the UTA DC-10 disaster have the support of the French government in their demand for a compensation package equivalent to the one reached by the United States and Britain for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

    Timetable hitch

    Both attacks have been blamed on Libya, and Qadhafi has indicated he will pay financial damages to the families in return for the removal of international sanctions.

    On Thursday, the Libyan ambassador to London Mohammad al-Zouai said the hitch centred on the timetable for payments - with the French government insisting part of the money be handed over before the lifting of sanctions.

    French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin said on Monday that an accord with Libya was only hours away, but the foreign ministry said on Friday that negotiations were still continuing.
     
    In 1999, six Libyan officials including Qadhafi's brother-in-law were convicted in absentia in Paris for the UTA bombing. But relatives of the dead received only about $35 million in compensation - compared to $2.7 billion agreed last month over Lockerbie.

    SOURCE: AFP


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