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UK and new Libyan leaders agree deal for IRA victims

Foreign Office poised to announce compensation as reports say Gaddafi is killed

At the minute, we cannot actually say what it is, but it will be very welcome by the victims... Part A of the deal has been confirmed

William Frazer, director of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives

Britain has secured a secret deal with the new Libyan government to pay compensation for victims of the IRA terror campaign in the UK.

Exaro has learnt that the Foreign Office is poised to announce a breakthrough in the battle by IRA victims to win compensation from Libya.

It comes as the National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya’s interim government, today claimed that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed in, or near, his home town of Sirte, apparently marking a dramatic end to his regime.

And it follows a key meeting to discuss the deal yesterday in Whitehall, chaired by the head of the Foreign Office’s Libya unit, Hamish Cowell.

The Foreign Office has been trying to keep details of the deal under wraps, and was understood to be waiting for the final defeat of Gaddafi before making an announcement, which is expected within weeks.

William Frazer, director of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, attended yesterday’s meeting and afterwards told Exaro: “We hope to see a major development in the next few weeks. At the minute, we cannot actually say what it is, but it will be very welcome by the victims. We shall have to congratulate the government on the stance that they are taking.”

The deal is understood to cover the 156 UK claimants who were excluded from a lawsuit against Libya brought in America by victims of terrorism sponsored or helped by the Gaddafi regime. Only American claimants received a settlement in that case, known as McDonald et al v Gaddafi, after the US passed a law to block other citizens from making such claims.

Frazer said: “Part A of the deal has been confirmed, the compensation to UK victims named on the writ. Part B, the humanitarian package in the UK, and Part C, on working with victims in Libya, is to follow.” 

Exaro revealed last week that the Foreign Office had arranged the meeting to discuss the deal. Victims’ groups are seeking a total compensation package of $2 billion, which is comparable to the $1.5 billion settlement reached by Gaddafi’s regime in 2008 to relatives of American victims of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing. The payout would also include funding of community projects in areas most damaged by the ‘troubles’.
 
Final details of the compensation deal are expected to be finalised within three months when a UK delegation will fly to Tripoli.

Victims in line for compensation are represented by Frazer, who lost five close family members to the IRA, and Jonathan Ganesh, a former security guard who was seriously injured in the Canary Wharf explosion in 1996 and who heads the Docklands Victims’ Association.

A diplomat from the Libyan embassy, representing the NTC, was expected to attend yesterday’s meeting, but did not go. A further meeting in London is being arranged where an NTC representative is expected.

Lord Empey, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, wrote in a commentary piece for Exaro last week that Gaddafi’s supply of arms to the Provisional IRA had extended the ‘troubles’ by up to ten years. He wrote: “I feel now is the time to press our case home to a successful conclusion.”

The Whitehall meeting follows the signing of a declaration by the NTC’s chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, in April. It committed his emerging administration, if successful in ousting Gaddafi, to pay compensation to victims of IRA attacks that used Libyan-supplied arms. 

The signing of the declaration was brokered by Jason McCue, the human-rights solicitor who represented victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing by the Real IRA, a splinter group from the Provisional IRA. 

McCue attended yesterday’s meeting at the Foreign Office, along with Frazer, Ganesh, Jeffrey Donaldson, the Democratic Unionist MP, Lord Laird, an Ulster Unionist peer, and Barrie Halliday, a pastor from South Armagh.

Three Foreign Office officials also attended, including Helen Fazey, head of the ‘Libya unit bilateral and internal team’.

The UK delegation to Tripoli is expected to include Empey, McCue, Frazer, Ganesh, Laird and Halliday, plus several victims not present at yesterday’s meeting. A parliamentary delegation that went to Tripoli two years ago at Gaddafi’s invitation had specifically excluded victims.

Frazer paid tribute to David Cameron, the UK prime minister, and William Hague, foreign secretary, for their efforts in helping to secure the deal, saying: “This initiative has been led and controlled by victims and should not be taken over by politicians. In the past, very few politicians came forward to help us. However, the prime minister and Hague are to be congratulated.”

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