October 16, 2009 / 7:25 PM / 9 years ago

British lawmakers to visit Libya over IRA victims

LONDON (Reuters) - Tripoli has invited a delegation of British parliamentarians to Libya to discuss the case of families of IRA victims who say Muammar Gaddafi’s regime helped arm the guerrillas, lawyers for the families said on Friday.

“The delegation will meet with their counterparts in Libya to discuss the tragedy of the UK victims while proposing a way forward to resolve this matter,” said London legal firm H20 Law.

Campaigners for Irish Republican Army (IRA) victims want compensation from Libyan leader Gaddafi, who they say shipped Semtex explosives in the 1980s and 1990s to paramilitaries fighting to end British rule of Northern Ireland.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last month he supported the families’ campaign.

He said British government officials would join the campaigners in meetings with Libyan officials to negotiate compensation.

But a Foreign Office spokeswoman said the parliamentary delegation to Libya would not be an official British government visit.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Britain’s relations with Libya remain in the spotlight after the early release in August of a Libyan agent convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing in which 270 people were killed.

Britain has denied pressing the Scottish government to free Abdel Basset al-Megrahi to help improve business ties with Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.

But it has conceded that British business and other interests would have been damaged if Megrahi had died in a Scottish prison instead of being allowed to return to Libya.

H20 Law said it expected the parliamentary visit would take place in the next few weeks.

“I truly hope that this is the start of dialogue and reconciliation of this issue which will then enable a genuine and lasting rapprochement between the UK and Libya,” said H20 lawyer Jason McCue.

The campaign for cash settlements follows out-of-court deals agreed by Libya with three American victims of IRA bombings.

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