House Panel Presses Libya to Pay Pan Am Flight 103 Families

A House committee went on record Tuesday against any normalization of U.S. relations with Libya until Tripoli pays all compensation due to families of people killed in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

Families of the 270 victims are still owed $2 million apiece as part of a settlement that Libya made with the United States as the northern African nation sought to shed its pariah status in world relations. The families have already received $8 million each.

Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., added language to a 2007 spending bill to prevent the United States from funding any restoration of diplomatic relations with Libya until Libya pays the remaining money.

"This sends a very strong statement that in order to rejoin the international community, you must at a minimum face your past indiscretions if you are a nation that sponsored terrorism," said Sweeney.

Kara Weipz, who lost her brother in the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, called the move by the House Appropriations Committee "extremely important" in order to make Libya fully comply with the terms of its agreement.

In 2002, Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion compensation, or $10 million for each victim. Libya withheld 20 percent of that sum while it remained on the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. Libya was removed from that list on May 15.

The 45-day public comment period regarding Libya's removal from the list of terrorism sponsors ends June 26.

A large number of Pan Am 103 victims were from New Jersey and New York, prompting lawmakers from the two states to call for full payment. New Jersey lost 38 victims, New York 58. The Senate approved such a resolution earlier this month.

The United States has not had formal diplomatic relations with Libya since 1980. The move announced May 15 was the culmination of a process that began three years ago, when Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, agreed to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs.