After being threatened with budget cuts, the State Department has changed course and is now actively backing Pan Am 103 families that want the last $2 million each of their victim's compensation from Libya. The move was sparked after an amendment was proposed to the department's appropriations bill that threatens to withdraw funding for a U.S. Embassy in Libya.
Ever since Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, the families of the victims have been fighting for compensation from the Libyan government. A long-awaited 2003 agreement promised $10 million per family. The last $2 million, however, depended on Libya's being removed from the U.S. State Sponsor of Terror list.
When the State Department announced last month that Libya would come off the list, the families hoped they would finally be compensated for their loss.
Since that announcement, however, the State Department had backed away from fully supporting the families. The State Department spokesman repeatedly said that the U.S. government was not party to negotiations with the Libyans and did not assert publicly that Libya owed the remaining $2 million to each family.
A new amendment to be voted on today, however, blocks funding for the creation of a U.S. embassy in Libya until Libya pays the families.
The amendment's sponsor is Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY). His office says they have support from both sides of the aisle for this, and they expect it to pass.
Yesterday, the State Department was much more supportive of the families' cause.
"Obviously, we support justice for the Pan Am 103 families, and we support their efforts to receive due compensation," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.
Jim Kreindler, lawyer for the Pan Am 103 applauded yesterday's comments saying that it was "very positive the State Department is taking an active role in urging Libyans to complete obligations to the families as soon as possible."