Victims of IRA terrorism were given fresh hope of compensation from the Libyan government today after Colonel Gaddafi indicated that a deal had been struck with Britain.
In a rare interview, Libya’s leader Muammar al-Gaddafi said that “an agreement or a legal
agreement” had been concluded between his country and the British government — boosting hopes of official recognition for Libya’s role in arming the IRA at the height of the Troubles.
Speaking to Sky News in an exchange which was broadcast this morning, Col Gaddafi was asked by reporter Colin Brazier about the delegation of MPs who have been putting Tripoli under pressure to compensate victims of the IRA. They are due to travel to Libya next week to hold talks with Libyan officials about a possible package for victims of IRA terrorism.
Libya and IRA terror: deal is done, says GaddafiCONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
The delegation includes DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and Nigel Dodds.
When asked about the delegation’s mission, Col Gaddafi said: “To the best of my knowledge I am not aware there is a delegation, that is because I am not really interested. It does not concern me, these diplomatic or government delegations because I am out of it. But I believe that an agreement has been concluded between Libya and the UK.”
When pressed on whether a deal had actually been struck, the Libyan leader replied: “Yeah, yeah. So it closes the chapters of the past. There will be no chance of any pursuit of legal or previous actions, so that is it.”
Brazier then asked that, with compensation paid to the American victims of the Lockerbie bombing and now that it seemed there was a deal on Northern Ireland, what was Col Gaddafi’s message to the family police officer Yvonne Fletcher who was shot dead outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984.
He replied: “She is not an enemy to us and we are sorry all the time. She was on duty to protect the Libyan Embassy. This problem should be solved — but who did it? It is always like a persistent matter.”
Col Gaddafi supplied arms and explosives to the IRA during the Troubles and campaigners launched a class action for compensation.
The British Government has been hesitant in its support of the bid, although the group was given fresh hope of success earlier this year after a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Scotland’s decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi renewed focus on the campaign and Libyan officials have since hinted that talks between Tripoli and London are progressing.
Gaddafi’s reaction to the victims’ compensation issue will further encourage the cross-parliamentary group heading for Libya in the latest bid to extract compensation from Libya.
The group will include DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson as well as Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay, and others whose names are still to be revealed.
Before the transcript of the Sky News interview became available yesterday, a source close to the group told the Belfast Telegraph that a deal was imminent.
However, Mr Donaldson insisted it was still some way off.
“We spoke to the Libyans in London and as a result we have been invited to Libya to speak to officials there, but a lot of work still has to be done,” he said.
“We are encouraged by the latest moves and are hopeful, but that’s all I can say.”
Last night, Willie Frazer of the FAIR organisation said: “It’s a hopeful statement, coming as it does from Colonel Gaddafi and we give it a cautious welcome.
“It shows that he has recognised our grief which must be seen as a major step. We would need to see the details and the outworkings of such an agreement, but it gives us room for optimism. We have been working hard on this for 10 years and if it materialises it will give much comforts to the families of innocent victims.”
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said it had facilitated next week’s visit to Libya. She said the compensation issue would be discussed and that “agreement was up to the Libyans and the people involved in the campaign”.
The Sky News interview covered a wide range of topics, including the IRA issue, the Barack Obama Nobel Peace Prize (which Gaddafi said was premature, “with some sort of hypocrisy and sycophancy”), the 1984 shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, the Iran weapons of mass destruction and the Israel-Palestine situation.