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Berlin Tells Libya to Pay Up

DW staff (ktz)
September 25, 2004

Germany had harsh words for Libya after Tripoli failed to make good on a deal to pay millions of dollars in compensation to the victims of a Berlin nightclub bombing. Pay up or face the consequences, Berlin said.

No longer an international pariah: Moammar GadhafiImage: AP

The German government is tired of waiting for Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to follow through with a pledge to pay compensation to the victims of the 1986 La Belle disco bombing. A government spokesman said on Saturday Chancellor Gerhard Schröder would cancel a visit to Tripoli next month if the first installment of the $35 (€28.5) million agreed to in August for the 160 victims of the Berlin bombing is not made.

The one-day meeting between Schröder and Gadhafi was agreed to after Libya signed an agreement in late August stating that it would pay $15 million in compensation by Sept. 8.

"Honoring the La Belle compensation agreement is the precondition for the resumption of German-Libyan relations," the government spokesman said, but added he was confident the money would be paid.

According to Der Spiegel newsmagazine, the German foreign ministry had summoned Libya's ambassador to Berlin twice during the previous week to ask for the payment as promised. Tripoli, however, blamed the delay on technical problems in transferring the funds.

Making amends

A German court ruled in 2001 that the Libyan secret service was behind the bombing of the disco in West Berlin, in which two Americans and a Turkish woman were killed and more than 200 people injured. It convicted four people of carrying out the bombing. As a result of the ruling, Libya was required to pay compensation.

The payment agreed to Tripoli and Berlin covers non-US victims only. Payouts to US victims and their families are subject to separate legal action in the United States.

Gaddafi und Prodi, EU
Gaddafi, left, smiles as he shakes hands with EU Commission President Romano Prodi at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday April 27, 2004.Image: AP

The deal has been billed as another significant step for Libya as it tries to end 30 yeas of international isolation, during which the West accused Gadhafi of sponsoring international terrorism. The first step came earlier in the year when the EU decided to begin considering negotiations with Libya over resuming trade relations as part of a cooperation partnership between Europe and North Africa.

On Wednesday, Brussels agreed to lift all sanctions, including those on weapons, against Libya. Two days prior to that US President George W. Bush formally ended Washington's broad trade embargo on Libya to reward it for giving up weapons of mass destruction.