Caution sounded over Libyan ‘compensation’

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A NOTE of caution has been sounded over reports that the leader of Libya’s government-in-waiting has pledged to compensate British people injured by weapons supplied by Col Gaddafi to the IRA.

Embattled Libyan leader Gaddafi supplied substantial volumes of weapons and Semtex to the IRA throughout the Troubles. He later settled with $1.5bn for US victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism but has so far failed to give any compensation to victims from the UK.

Yesterday the News Letter reported that London law firm H20, which has been working closely with the Foreign Office on the matter, had been given a firm commitment of compensation for IRA victims by the chairman of the Transitional National Council (TNC) of Libya, Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil.

H20 lawyer Jason McCue said he had been in Libya in recent days and that he had got a signed agreement from Mr Jalil that he would endeavour to give UK citizens equal compensation to that given to US citizens who were injured by Libyan-sponsored attacks, should he gain power.

But Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who has also been involved in process for several years, urged caution.

“We do not know who we are dealing with here,” he told the News Letter.

As member of the Westminster Privy Council, Mr Donaldson said he was well briefed on the situation in Libya at present.

“If it is the case that a commitment has been given by a revolutionary leader we would welcome it but we would urge caution because there have been so many false dawns before,” he said. “We all want to see Gaddafi removed, then we will know better if any commitments will be honoured.”

He would be working closely with H2O and the Foreign Office on the matter, he added.

But lawyer Mr McCue insisted last night that Mr Jalil was the right man to be dealing with. “It is clear on the ground in Libya that the TNC is not only the new Libya but the future Libya,” he said.

The statement signed by Mr Jalil was dated April 5, the same day as the Guardian newspaper carried a report from the deputy chairman of Libya’s revolutionary administration, Abdul Hafiz Ghoga.

In the report Mr Ghoga said that H2O’s claims that the group had apologised for Gaddafi and promised compensation were “not true”.

“The council didn’t apologise because it was not responsible for Gaddafi’s actions and it “didn’t negotiate anything about compensation”, Mr Ghoga said.

However, one source suggested Mr Ghoga had now rowed in behind Mr Jalil after reading the signed statement in question.

Co Armagh victims campaigner Willie Frazer said he was unable to discuss apparent signs of tension within the TNC.

“The Foreign Office seems to be happy enough and is helping us make arrangements to travel out there,” he said. “We don’t know if the TNC are going to be in power, but if they do they will need friends and will not want to be seen as liars and hypocrites. We need to put on more pressure to have Gaddafi removed.”

Ulster Unionist party leader Tom Elliott yesterday claimed that the explosive used to kill Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh recently was Libyan-supplied IRA Semtex.

“It would seem that disaffected members of the Provisional IRA who have the expertise on bomb-making have joined forces with new young recruits to cause mayhem and destruction and using weapons and Semtex which has been retained by the Provisional IRA,” he said,

TUV Newry and Armagh assembly candidate Barrie Halliday said he echoed concerns from his party leader Jim Allister that any possible compensation from Libya should not be passed to perpetrators of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

“EU peace funding far too often ends up in the hands of the perpetrators rather than the victims,” he said. “Buying the matter off with some contribution to a ‘peace and reconciliation fund’ will corrupt the purpose of proper reparation for those whose lives were blighted by Libyan-supplied IRA weapons of terror.”

See Morning View, page 18