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MPs urge compensation fund for victims of IRA attacks using Libyan explosives

The next UK Government should finance a compensation fund for victims of IRA attacks using Libyan explosives, a committee of MPs said.

Successive administrations were accused of "two decades of failure" to seek money from the North African country and letting down many bereaved and injured across the UK.

Ministers after the General Election must order a pension or payment by the end of the year even if negotiations with the Arabs are not possible - before time runs out for victims, parliamentarians said.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee accused former Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour administration of missing a vital opportunity to secure payouts in the early 2000s, compounded by further omissions by successor governments.

Chairman Laurence Robertson said: "The UK Government cannot allow this litany of missed chances to continue.

"There needs to be direct dialogue with the Libyan Government, and if the situation there makes this impossible, the Government must begin the process of establishing a fund themselves."

Starting work on compensation now would allow the Government to calculate who is eligible and how much money it should claim back from the Libyan authorities after their predecessors armed the Provisionals with massive amounts of weaponry - extending the Troubles and causing enormous human suffering.

Bombings using toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi's weapons included: Harrods department store in 1983; an Enniskillen Remembrance Day ceremony blast in 1987; Warrington in 1993 and the financial heartland at the London Docklands in 1996.

Victims of IRA attacks using Libyan Semtex, a plastic explosive frequently deployed across the UK, are pressing for UK Government support in their campaign for compensation from massive amounts of frozen assets seized from the toppled Gaddafi administration.

While the US, France and Germany negotiated multimillion-pound settlements with Muammar Gaddafi for its citizens impacted by Libyan-directed terrorism, the previous Labour government in the UK has been heavily criticised for not striking a similar deal.

Tuesday's report from MPs also found:

:: Almost £9.5 billion of frozen assets in the UK from the Gaddafi regime could provide "leverage" in negotiations on a compensation deal.

:: The UK Government has left it to victims to secure compensation for fostering terror in stark contrast to other countries.

:: The administration led by Mr Blair missed a vital opportunity, during the period in which Libya was seeking a rapprochement with the west from 2003, to act on behalf of IRA victims by placing this issue firmly on the negotiating table to secure a compensation package.

:: The exclusion of the UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism from the terms of the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement 2008 after Mr Blair left office was another missed opportunity to resolve the issue of compensation, given the determination and vigour demonstrated by the Governments of France, Germany and the US.

:: If the Coalition Government had taken up the issue after the 2011 fall of Gaddafi it would have had a good chance of an agreement.

The report concluded: "We believe that, with sufficient determination, the UK Government should be able to reach an agreement.

"But, as one of our witnesses said: 'it requires somebody to bang on their door, not with a wet sponge, but (with a) bang'."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Government supports UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism in their attempts to seek redress from the Libyan authorities.

"The next government will respond to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's report in due course."

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