Turning Point Reported in Lockerbie Negotiations

From Times Wire Services

Libya agreed for the first time Tuesday to take a measure of responsibility for the 1988 terrorist bombing that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, said a senior State Department official who reported that the offer is being studied carefully.

At a meeting in London with U.S. and British diplomats who have long been negotiating a statement of responsibility, Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's emissaries proposed words to accompany a previous offer to pay as much as $2.7 billion to the relatives of 270 victims.

"There is some agreement along those lines with Libya. I'm not in a position to say that it's sufficient," said the official. "We intend to go through it very carefully back here."

Another source close to the talks said: "History is in the making. We are at a turning point and have entered the final phase to close this file within the next few days."

Relatives of the dead, however, remained skeptical. They have waged a long fight to press Kadafi to take responsibility for the bombing, and they have been disappointed before.

Bob Monetti, whose son died aboard the jetliner, described himself as "cautious and hopeful, but not optimistic."

"One possibility is that Libya is actually ready to admit responsibility," he said from his home in New Jersey. "A second possibility is that Libya is sorta gonna maybe kind of admit responsibility in some kind of half-baked, deniable way, which is the worst of all possible worlds."

Libya's statement would cover the government's civil responsibility as the employer of individuals connected to the attacks, but not criminal liability, the U.S. official said. The text would need to be approved by the U.N. if international sanctions against Kadafi's government are to be lifted.

Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, who represented the U.S. at the meeting, is to discuss the meeting with victims' relatives today.

Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi is serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing. A second man was acquitted.

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