More than a year after the United States renewed diplomatic ties with Libya, leader Moammar Gadhafi still has not completed settlement payments to the families of Pan Am 103 victims, and he recently delivered an incendiary speech during which he laughed off any financial impact of the settlement.
Libya agreed in 2003 to pay a compensation totaling $2.7 billion, or $10 million to each family of the 270 victims of Pan Am 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials connected to the bombing.
The final installment of compensation payment was to be paid when the U.S. removed Libya from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. That happened in May of last year, but the families are still waiting for $2 million each.
Meanwhile, earlier this spring Gadhafi gave an incendiary public speech where he laughed off the settlement payments as having no financial impact as Libya is now allowed to do business with foreign oil companies, another result of the settlement agreement.
"Afterwards, for American oil companies to return, they had to pay (money) to Libya, which equaled what we had paid as compensation for Lockerbie. And that's a great achievement," said Gadhafi in an April speech posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute. "What we gave with our right hand, we took back with our left hand," he laughs.
Some critics say his behavior is further evidence that the U.S. should not be restoring ties with Libya while Gadhafi is still in power.
"Shame on the U.S.," said Bert Ammerman, whose brother died in Pan Am 103. "The only reason our government is doing this is because big business and oil companies want to get back into Libya at the expense of the 259 people who were massacred at 31,000 feet."
Eleven people were killed on the ground in Lockerbie.
Some in Congress acknowledge Gadhafi has benefited from the deal without living up to his end of the bargain.
"The tragedy is that Gadhafi is correct when he says that our ineffectual energy policies have reimbursed him," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., but Israel adds that while he has no tolerance for Gadhafi, it is still important for the U.S. to establish ties with the Libyan people. "This is about the next generation," he said.
Rep. Israel and many others in Congress think that before diplomatic funding is restored, Gadhafi must honor his financial commitments to the Pan Am 103 families. Rep. Israel backed a House measure, which was approved earlier this week, to deny the White House's request for spending on diplomatic relations with Libya, which includes more than $115 million for a new embassy in Tripoli and more than $1 million for other diplomatic initiatives, until the final compensation payment is received.
"For now, our focus has to be on compelling the government of Libya to keep its promises," said Israel. He added that if the freezing of diplomatic funds still does not prompt Libya to pay, then he would support a return to economic sanctions for the country.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss their version of the Foreign Operations Bill.